News In Brief

Yasser Arafat was to appeal to President Clinton for new diplomatic support after his first working meeting with Israel's new leader ended inconclusive-ly. The Palestinian Authority chief reluctantly agreed to consider Prime Minister Ehud Barak's request that some provisions of last year's Wye Plantation interim peace deal be reexamined as part of more complex negotiations on an overall settlement. Barak said he expected Arafat's answer in two weeks. But aides to the Palestinian leader quickly indicated that no delay in pulling back Israeli troops from the West Bank would be acceptable.

Under heavy security precautions, funeral services (above) were held in the Kosovo farming town of Gracko for the 14 Serbs found murdered late last week. NATO-led peacekeepers said they'd detained four suspects for questioning in the case, but did not reveal their identities or ethnic origin. Meanwhile, in other apparent reprisals for earlier ethnic violence, two Serbs were murdered in their car in a northern town and the remains of three Albanians and a Muslim from Bosnia were found in an apartment in the western city of Pec.

More than $2 billion was pledged by foreign governments and international aid agencies to feed and house returning Kosovo refugees. But at a meeting in Brussels sponsored by the World Bank and European Union, a spokesman said estimates of need for the fractured province "are constantly being revised," requiring further donations.

Word of another week's delay in the referendum on autonomy for East Timor was conveyed to the government of Indonesia, a senior official said, although UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had yet to announce it publicly. Foreign Minister Ali Alatas said Annan "apparently now is proposing" that it be held Aug. 30. The controversial vote already had been pushed back from Aug. 8 to at least Aug. 21. The new postponement was welcomed by both separatist and pro-Indonesia leaders.

As many as 1 million civil servants planned to join workers from the construction and utilities industries today in the most massive strike in South African history. At issue - unless President Thabo Mbeki's government offers a compromise acceptable to public-sector unions first - are higher wages and the threat of layoffs. South Africa is struggling to grow its economy fast enough to absorb new job-seekers. Unemployment is estimated at 25 percent nationally.

In the face of international objection, the government of Trinidad and Tobago executed its 10th convicted murderer in eight weeks. The government was already under heavy criticism for hanging nine men in early June for murdering a family in a drug dispute - its first executions in five years. Analysts said the moves signaled a determination by Caribbean island states to deter the rising drug-related crime rate by ending the time-consuming appeals of death-row inmates.

At least 19 thrill-seekers died and nine others were hurt or missing as a flash flood swept without warning through the canyon near Interlaken, Switzerland, where they were engaging in the sport of canyoning. Participants in the sport slide, jump, or descend by rope into watery gorges without rafts to carry them back out.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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