News In Brief

The situation in Kosovo is "revolting," a UN humanitarian team leader said. Sergio Vieira de Mello described evidence of ethnic cleansing as worse than expected and confirmed ethnic-Albanian testimonies of attempts to displace "a shocking number of civilians." In related reports of atrocities, a former Kosovar prisoner said Yugoslav troops had handcuffed 50 Albanian men together and ordered them to serve as human shields against attacks by the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army as well as NATO airstrikes. NATO has repeatedly alledged that Kosovo civilians have been used as shields.

India's opposition Congress Party leader, Sonia Gandhi, reversed herself and agreed to take back last week's resignation. Gandhi quit amid controversy over her qualifications to seek the prime ministership in this fall's election because of her relative lack of political experience and her Italian birth.

Hundreds of Filipino protesters burned American flags and effigies of President Clinton as they tried to storm the US Embassy in Manila. They were demonstrating against a vote scheduled for later this week in the Philippine Senate to approve an accord with the US that would allow large-scale military exercises to be conducted on Filipino soil.

Iraq will likely renew its oil-for-food deal with the UN, officials of the Baghdad government said. That word follows the Security Council's unanimous vote last Friday to extend the program for another six months. Under the agreement to help ordinary citizens deal with economic sanctions, Iraq wil be allowed to export $5.26 billion in oil in exchange for medicine, food, and necessary items for six more months.

Putting himself at odds with his mentor and political ally, Nelson Mandela, South Africa's likely next president, Thabo Mbeki, suggested granting amnesty to people responsible for apartheid-era crimes - even if they failed to apply for a now-closed process of legal forgiveness. Analysts viewed Mbeki's suggestion as an attempt to defuse tensions in volatile KwaZulu-Natal province. Presidential elections will be held June 2.

A ceasefire went into effect in the civil war wracking Sierra Leone. Referring to a truce signed last week by rebel leader Foday Sankoh and himself, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said, "If we fail to have peace this time, the future for all of us will be bleak." Sankoh and his Revolutionary United Front have been in revolt against the government since 1991, and came close to capturing the capital, Freetown, in January. Tens of thousands of people have died in the conflict.

Two five-pointed stars, symbols of the ultra-leftist Red Brigades were smeared in red paint on the residence of Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema. Last week, the apparently defunct group claimed responsibility for the killing of Massimo D'Antona, an adviser to Italy's Labor Minister. The Red Brigades and opposition rightist guerillas were responsible for numerous incidents of terrorism in the 70s and early 80s.

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