News In Brief

orthodox easter attacks on Yugoslavia eased slightly because of bad weather, and NATO officials said they detected signs of a shift in President Milosevic's tough stance against peace in Kosovo. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Albright and her Rus-sian counterpart, Igor Ivanov, headed to Europe for urgent talks aimed at finding a possible political solution to the crisis in Kosovo.

Saying "nobody can dare to threaten us" now, India's Defense Minister pronounced the controversial Agni II medium-range ballistic missile operational. George Fernandes said an upgraded version of the nuclear-capable weapon had been successfully test-fired over the objections of such governments as the US, Britain, and Japan. Neighboring Pakistan confirmed it had been warned of the test and said it would "examine how to respond."

At a minimum, key second-round peace negotiations between Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement and opposition forces appeared unlikely. The two sides were to meet later this month for talks on implementing the cease-fire and power-sharing government they agreed to in UN-sponsored negotiations March 14. But over the weekend a senior Taliban official said the movement would refuse to attend the follow-up conference. He declared the earlier talks a failure because of heavy new fighting that erupted almost as soon as they ended.

Despite his rocky start as leader of Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schrder is expected to be elected chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party (SPD) today as well. Schrder would be the first SPD politician to hold both jobs since Willy Brandt in the early 1970s. He has survived numerous embarrassments since assuming power six months ago - among them highly visible disputes with his coalition partner, the Green Party - but analysts say he deserves high marks for rallying the public behind Germany's participation in NATO assaults on Kosovo, its first military foray since World War II.

An outspoken nationalist with strong anti-US views easily won election as governor of Tokyo, raising what analysts said were new problems for Prime Minister Obuchi. Sintaro Ishihara defeated 19 other candidates, one of them from Obuchi's Liberal Democratic Party. Tokyo's municipal government has little influence over national policy, but the race for governor is widely viewed as setting the political direction for all of Japan.

The dusty, wind-swept West African nation of Niger was reported calm with few signs of mourning after Friday's assassination of President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara. Bare - who was widely unpopular - was shot by members of his own guard detail as he prepared to board a helicopter in the capital, Nia-mey. Early indications were that he'll be succeeded by Col. Moussa Moumouni Djerma-koye, the Army chief of staff.

In a presidential election that international monitors called "honest and fair," voters in Djibouti gave a landslide victory to ruling-party candidate Ismail Omar Guelleh, nephew of retiring head of state Hassan Gouled Aptidon. He will be only the second elected president since the small, impoverished Horn of Africa country won independence from France in 1977.

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