News In Brief

The forced return of ethnic-Albanian refugees from Kosovo border crossings may indicate that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic plans to use them as human shields, two senior European officials suggested. NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana and Britain's minister for international aid, Clare Short, said the refugees could prove useful to the Yugoslav government as alliance attacks concentrated more on Army and police units on the ground in Kosovo. NATO estimates that more than 900,000 Albanians have been displaced in Kosovo in the past 12 months.

Serb forces in Kosovo have "restored peace" and ended their offensive against ethnic-Albanian guerrillas, official Yugoslav news outlets reported as the Monitor went to press. The announcement came as former Cypriot President Spyros Kyprianou arrived in Belgrade to escort three captured US soldiers out of the country. But he said heavy NATO bombing the night before had given Yugoslav officials "second thoughts" about releasing the Americans.

Thousands of militiamen - some of whom are accused of murdering separatist sympathizers in East Timor earlier this week - pledged to step up their campaign against independence from Indonesia. At a rally 85 miles from the capital, Dil, they vowed to fight on even if all Indonesian troops are withdrawn from the troubled province. Their rally was a response to the call by jailed separatist leader Xanana Gusmao for his followers to take up arms. Later, Gusmao said he was urging them only to defend themselves against the Army and anti-independence groups.

A videotaped message from Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi called on the UN to protect the human rights of the people of Burma (Myanmar). The democracy activist, who smuggles messages each year to the annual meeting of the UN's Commission on Human Rights, said repression by Burma's ruling junta in 1998 was the worst in almost a decade. She did not say what measures she wanted the UN to take.

A high-level envoy from China will be welcome in Taiwan this fall, but the latter must be recognized as an equal before there can be any hope of reconciliation, President Lee Teng Hui said. Addressing a twice-a-year session of the National Unification Council in Taipei, Lee also said China must first "accomplish political democratization" and relax its human-rights policies. He said Taiwan's "mainland policy remains exactly the same" as in 1995, when he first rebuffed a proposal for reunification by his counterpart in Beijing, Jiang Zemin. China broke off discussions on resuming relations that same year.

Poverty and an almost 50 percent unemployment rate, mixed with skepticism that either candidate can make much of a difference, were clouding today's presidential election in Djibouti. Voters are to choose a successor to retiring Hassan Gouled Aptidon, who has ruled the Horn of Africa state since it won independence from France in 1977. His nephew, police commander Ismail Omar, has promised economic reforms. Rival Moussa Ahmed, the compromise choice of opposition parties, campaigned on a pledge to fight corruption.

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