News In Brief

A published report that an invasion of Yugoslavia by NATO ground forces was being planned - possibly as soon as the end of next month - was denied by senior alliance officials. In responding to the account in the London newspaper The Observer, however, NATO did not rule out the possibility that infantry and artillery units eventually might be employed. But Secretary-General Javier Solana said NATO's focus remained on trying to defeat Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic by bombing and missile attacks.

Over the objections of Hindu nationalist politicians, Italian-born Sonia Gandhi began trying to assemble a new government in India. But analysts said it was far from certain that the Congress Party leader would be able to cobble together a coalition to succeed that of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who narrowly lost a vote of no-confidence in Parliament Saturday. The Congress was 127 votes short of a majority, and a failure by Gandhi almost certainly would trigger a new national election. Her Hindu critics disputed the right of a "foreigner" to govern India.

Long lines of voters formed at polling stations in Turkey for a national election that pitted political parties favoring Islamic fundamentalism against defenders of the country's secular system. Late opinion polls suggested Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's Democratic Leftists and the Islamic Virtue Party would each win about 20 percent of the vote, leading to weeks of tough bargaining to see which can form a viable government.

There was growing concern that civil war was near in East Timor after a new round of fighting between separatists and anti-independence forces killed at least 15 people. The clashes, which began Saturday, were continuing Sunday morning. Visiting Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews said he was "appalled" at the violence and called for the stationing of UN peace-keepers in the Indonesian territory as soon as possible.

Mediators were looking for ways to lure the parties in Congo's civil war back to the negotiating table after rebel delegates abruptly walked out of their first face-to-face session with President Laurent Kabila's representatives. In neighboring Zambia, the rebels said they were returning to the battlefield against Kabila's forces but were "ready to talk again at any time." Zambian sources said the meeting collapsed because the rebels had made demands that fell outside the agenda.

Rainy weather across much of the country was expected to be the key to whether Italians throw out the system under which they've voted for half a century. Proportional representation, which allows even tiny political parties to wield enough power in parliament to topple a government, is blamed for Italy's 56 administrations since World War II. Most parties were calling for a "yes" vote for change in yesterday's referendum, which - analysts said - could draw a larger-than-usual turnout at the polls since the rains were likely to discourage weekend pleasure trips.

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