News In Brief

Despite the deaths of two of its peacekeepers in a bomb-removal accident, NATO was upbeat in assessing the situation in Kosovo. The rebel Kosovo Liberation Army turned over maps of its minefields and UN officials were beginning the restoration of electricity, water, and other services across the province. But US President Clinton, visiting neighboring Macedonia, urged ethnic-Albanian refugees to "give us a couple more weeks" to clear Kosovo of unexploded ordnance before returning to their homes.

The postponement of the scheduled Aug. 8 referendum on autonomy for East Timor was expected to be announced by the UN as the Monitor went to press. Diplomats said Secretary-General Kofi Annan probably would push the date back to at least late August because of violence blamed on Timorese who oppose separation from Indonesia. Registration of voters was to have begun Monday but didn't, amid security concerns, and officials said completing it in time for Aug. 8 balloting would be difficult.

The first high-level negotiations between North and South Korea in more than a year began in a Beijing hotel. But although they were to focus on aid and reuniting families divided by the peninsula's 1950-53 war, the talks soon turned to the trading of accusations over last week's naval confrontation in the Yellow Sea. The North held up the start of the talks for 24 hours to protest South Korea's failure to deliver 100,000 tons of gift fertilizer by the agreed-upon date.

In a new expression of anger at the bombing of its embassy in Yugoslavia, the government of China accused the US of seeking to become "Lord of the Earth." A commentary in the Communist Party newspaper, People's Daily, compared the US to Nazi Germany, citing its "massive defense budget" and "ferocious appearance of hegemonism." Last week, China rejected a visiting State Department official's efforts to explain the embassy attack.

At the risk of a new confrontation with the powerful Roman Catholic Church, the Philippines government announced it will actively promote birth control to curb the burgeoning population. At the current growth rate, the estimated population of 75 million people would double by 2025, straining the government's ability to provide basic services. Church protests forced previous President Fidel Ramos to scale back a similar plan.

With its stock price tumbling, Coca-Cola Corp. took out full-page ads in Belgian newspapers to apologize for the health scare that developed when hundreds of children became ill after consuming its products. The ads admit that the company reacted too slowly to the matter, which led to selective bans on its soft drinks in several European countries and calls by the European Union for an investigation.

A noontime bomb explosion at a railroad station in northeastern India killed at least 10 people and injured 80 others - many of them seriously - authorities said. The blast went off in New Jalpaiguri, 265 miles north of Calcutta, as a passenger train was arriving.

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