News In Brief

China was flexing its diplomatic muscles in the wake of last week's embassy bombing - demanding a US apology for the incident, coupled with a full investigation and punishment for those responsible. In other actions, China suspended dialogue with the Clinton administration on human rights and arms control; indicated that, as a permanent Security Council member, it would spell out its own conditions for any intervention in Kosovo by the UN; and downgraded the visit of German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder - beginning today - from official to "working."

With NATO bombs raining down on Yugoslavia for a 47th day, the Army announced it had ordered a partial withdrawal of troops and police from Kosovo. But there was no immediate indication whether any had actually left or of the number who were affected. US and British spokesmen called the move inadequate. Meanwhile, the Belgrade government appealed to the UN's International Court of Justice in The Hague for an immediate halt to the air war on grounds that it is "a crime against peace." The US is to present counterarguments today. A ruling on the issue isn't expected for several weeks.

More persuasive tactics may be needed to entice Kosovo refugees to leave overcrowded camps in Macedonia for temporary shelter in neighboring Albania, UN officials said. Only about 100 Kosovo Albanians volunteered for the move out of a combined 70,000 in three camps, a situation described as "worrisome." Officials warn that the Macedonian economy could collapse under the strain. In all, 250,000 refugees are estimated to be in the small country.

Israeli Prime Minister Netan-yahu ignored 11th-hour US appeals for moderation and ordered the closure of three departments at the Jerusalem headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The move came despite warnings that it would likely cause a violent reaction, although there was no immediate comment by senior Palestinian officials. Political observers saw the prime minister's action as an attempt to rally nationalist voters with a week to go before Israel's elections. Netanyahu trails challenger Ehud Barak by 45 percent to 37 percent in late polls in his bid for reelection.

A second straight day of violence erupted in the East Timorese capital Dil, with pro- and anti- independence youths fighting with machetes and guns at the main market. At least three people were reported dead. The continued sparring threatens UN plans for an Aug. 8 referendum on autonomy after almost 25 years of rule by Indonesia.

Rebel forces were mopping up remaining elements of the presidential guard in Guinea-Bissau's capital after seizing power late last week. But rebel leaders and senior politicians, meeting in Bissau, were having difficulty agreeing on the fate of deposed President Joao Bernardo Vieira. He remained in seclusion amid reports he'd sought and been granted asylum in Portugal. Sentiment at the meeting generally favored putting him on trial for corruption during his 19-year rule, reports said.

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