News In Brief

Yugoslavian troops were accused of crossing into Albania, seizing a village, and setting fire to several houses before withdrawing. There was no word on casualties. Yugoslav government officials denied the incident, alleging instead that Albanian forces had invaded "Serb territory," where they encountered defenders. In Washington, White House and State Department spokesmen warned that any widening of the conflict by the Belgrade government "would have the most serious consequences."

Whether Yasser Arafat unilaterally proclaims statehood for Palestine will be decided April 27, his aides announced. The Palestinian Authority president returned to Gaza from a tour of Moscow, Tokyo, Beijing, and other capitals, where he was frequently advised to wait rather than proceeding with a plan to declare statehood May 4, the date on which the interim period of autonomy fixed by the Oslo accord with Israel expires. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has vowed to annex much of the West Bank if unilateral statehood is declared.

Last weekend's successful test of a nuclear-capable missile by India "will increase the arms race" in South Asia, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said in his first official reaction. But, speaking in Lahore, Sharif stopped short of saying whether Pakistan would match the test as it did last May when India exploded underground nuclear-test devices. The Pakistan government was under domestic pressure to launch its own test missile, with reports suggesting that could happen as soon as tomorrow.

In an apparent bid to improve morale in the senior ranks of its armed forces, the North Korean government announced the promotion of 79 more officers to the rank of general. The communist regime said last week it would spend $1.4 billion on defense this year, but recurring reports of food shortages have cast doubt on its ability to adequately feed and arm the 1.2-million-member military, the world's fifth-largest. Intelligence sources in rival South Korea estimate there already are 1,200 generals in the North Korean armed forces.

Leftist rebels were blamed for the bold hijacking of a domestic flight in Colombia, whose 46 passengers and crew were later herded into boats that disappeared into the jungle as police aircraft flew overhead. By the time police arrived at the remote airstrip where the plane was forced to land, it was empty and its tires had been punctured. Kidnappings by Colombian guerrillas are common, but the seizure of a domestic airliner is believed to be a first.

Alarmed opposition leaders in Venezuela appealed for unspecified help from the Organization of American States and other international groups in "ensuring democracy" against the actions of new President Hugo Chavez. Since late last week, Chavez has vowed to double his term to 10 years, threatened a state of emergency if Congress doesn't grant him sweeping new economic powers, and reinstated soldiers who'd been dismissed for helping him stage a failed 1992 coup. He claims Venezuela's democracy has been weakened by graft and patronage politics.

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