News In Brief

Avoiding another confrontation with President Boris Yeltsin, the Communist-dominated lower house of Russia's parliament voted 297 to 55 to confirm his nominee for prime minister. But leaders quickly characterized Sergei Stepashin's tenure as temporary, pointing to legislative elections scheduled for December and to next year's vote for a new president. They also cast doubts on Stepashin's ability to address the nation's deep economic and social problems effectively.

Reacting to the election of Ehud Barak as new prime minister of Israel, senior Palestinians said they expected him to restart peace negotiations that have been stalled for most of outgoing leader Benjamin Netanya-hu's term. And they said a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood would come "God willing ... by the end of this year." Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat agreed to postpone such a proclamation until after Monday's election. Meanwhile, rival secular and religious parties were vying for inclusion in Barak's government, with speculation centering on the possible appointment of controversial hard-liner Ariel Sharon as foreign minister.

Hours after declaring its crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest was a "correct conclusion and will never be changed," the Chinese government ordered the arrest of one of the organizers, human rights sources said. Police took Jiang Qisheng from his Beijing home late Tuesday night, in what critics said was a bid to undercut any 10th-anniversary memorials to the violent June 4 crackdown. In the eastern city of Hangzhou, police required applicants to sign a form seeking permission for a small public meeting on the anniversary.

A lone church rector was defying a historic attempt to avert confrontations between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland this summer. The Rev. John Pickering of Drumcree refused to withdraw his invitation to marchers from the Protestant Orange Order to attend a service at his church before their July 4 parade past the town's Catholic enclave. Catholics consider the annual march a provocation. By almost a 6-to-1 margin, Northern Ireland's senior Protestant clergymen voted in favor of revoking the Drumcree invitation unless the marchers first made a pledge of good behavior.

Heavy shelling in the disputed Kashmir region that began May 6 has killed at least 33 people, Indian authorities said. An Army spokesman in rival Pakistan put the number at more than 70 and said all the victims were Indian. Despite recent efforts by the prime ministers of the two countries to resolve mutual problems, Kashmir has so far defied solution and the current fighting there is the most serious in months.

Claims and counterclaims surrounded the emergency hospital treatment in Karachi of former Pakistan Prime Minister Bena-zir Bhutto's husband. Asif Ali Zardari was bleeding profusely from a wound that his lawyer said was caused by torture. Police said Zardari, jailed as a suspect in a 1996 murder case, injured himself in a suicide attempt to avoid interrogation. In a statement from London, Bhutto accused the government of trying to kill him, and her Pakistan Peoples Party called for a general strike today in protest.

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