News In Brief

Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak moved quickly to explore coalition options with other parties following his landslide victory in Israel over Benjamin Netanyahu. Reports said he was to meet with leaders of a Russian-immigrant party that could boost his support in parliament from 27 to 34 seats. Under another scenario, he could invite Netanyahu's Likud group, with its 19 seats, into his government. Meanwhile, Netanyahu said he'd quit politics, setting up a contest to succeed him as Likud leader.

The two Serb soldiers captured last month in Kosovo by ethnic Albanian separatists were returned to Yugoslavia. They had been turned over to US authorities and were held at a military base in Germany. Meanwhile, the leaders of two key NATO partners - German Chancellor Schrder and Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema - said it was "unthinkable" for the alliance to attempt a ground invasion of Yugoslavia to try to end the Kosovo conflict.

If national elections were held today in Indonesia, opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri would win the presidency and her Democratic Party-Struggle would capture the most seats in parliament, new poll results showed. They were released amid demonstrations across Jakarta, the capital, the day before campaigning opens for the June 7 legislative vote. The presidential election follows in November. Opposition leaders formed a pro-reform coalition in a bid to break three decades of dominance by the Golkar Party of President B.J. Habibie and his predecessor, Sukarno.

Supporters of Sonia Gandhi camped outside her house and began hunger strikes to persuade her to return as head of India's opposition Congress Party. The chief ministers of four Congress-ruled states also quit, saying it made little sense to remain in their posts without her leading the party as it opens a tough campaign for this fall's election. Gandhi, who resigned Monday amid controversy over her Italian birth, isn't likely to reconsider, a spokesman said.

Amid predictions that they'll find nothing, American technicians arrived in Communist North Korea and began examining a suspected underground nuclear-weapons site. Nuclear weapons activity would violate a 1994 deal with the US, and the Pyongyang regime has denied it has such a program. But satellite images last summer showed thousands of people digging into a hillside not far from the country's main nuclear-power complex. North Korea demanded a $300 million fee for access to the site, but the US successfully bargained to substitute 400,000 tons of food aid.

All registered voters may participate in an open primary election to choose the next presidential candidate from Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), a surprise announcement said. The move is a dramatic break from tradition; in the 70 uninterrupted years that the PRI has governed, presidents have always picked their successors. For the first time, opposition parties are considered to have a realistic hope of winning the presidency in next year's national election.

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