News In Brief

Emboldened opposition leaders were calling for daily street protests and a general strike as soon as the end of the month to force Yugoslav President Milosevic from power. On the heels of rallies Tuesday in the cities of Uzice and Leskovac that drew thousands of protesters, a new demonstration was scheduled for the town of Prokuplje today. But Milosevic's Socialist Party called its own rally at the same time and place, raising the prospect of a violent confrontation.

A new confrontation was shaping up in Northern Ireland over the announcement by the Protestant Orange Order that it plans a massive demonstration Monday near a Catholic enclave in Belfast. An Orange Order spokesman said the rally would be a "peaceful show of solidarity" with members who are banned from parading on south Belfast's Lower Ormeau Road. A Catholic leader called the plan an "act of intimidation."

New Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's call for peace with Syria was met with a pledge by the Damascus government to match his moves "step by step." The two sides have not discussed peace in more than three years. Barak also scheduled his first official talks with an Arab leader, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, tomorrow, followed by a meeting Sunday with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. But the militant Hamas movement said Barak's peace initiatives were groundless and that its acts of "resistance" would continue.

Without explanation, a crucial meeting between the coalition partners in the German government was canceled. Chancellor Gerhard Schrder and his Green Party allies had planned to discuss differences on phasing out nuclear power that led some members of the latter group to threaten to quit the coalition. The environmental party has said its identity is at stake in the confrontation.

Rebel leaders and government negotiators agreed to a peace deal that would end Sierra Leone's eight-year civil war. The pact was to be signed almost immediately by President Ahmed Tejan Kabbah and Revolutionary United Front chief Foday Sankoh in neighboring Togo. It reportedly centers on power-sharing and setting aside a death sentence against Sankoh for treason. A previous deal signed by the two leaders collapsed in 1996.

Despite ill health, the senior opposition leader in Bahrain was sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined $14.5 million on grounds that he spied for a "foreign power," incited unrest, and ignored warnings to stop campaigning for political reform. It had been expected that Sheikh Abdul-Ameer al-Jamri, whose son heads the exiled Bahrain Freedom Movement, would be released as part of an amnesty for political prisoners.

Unwilling to wait for almost certain defeat in a no-confidence vote in parliament, the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea quit. Bill Skate triggered an international furor by extending diplomatic recognition to Taiwan earlier this week, but also is accused of corruption and having ties to street gangs.

With a brilliant flash and loud explosion, a meteor blew up over New Zealand's north island. The incident showered stones onto the ground below, but no injuries were reported.

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