News In Brief

In the latest reprise of ethnic hatred in Kosovo, a strong explosion ripped through a Serb Orthodox church in Pristina. The blast that damaged the Sveti Spasa Church came just hours after British Prime Minister Tony Blair had visited the regional capital, assuring Serbian representatives that UN peacekeepers would ensure the safety of all sides. It also follows last week's meeting in Sarajevo of some 40 nations' leaders, who signed a "stability pact" to rebuild the ravaged Balkans.

On the same day the government staged peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, the Marxist rebels were accused of detonating a massive car bomb, killing 10 people and injuring 38 others. Friday's blast, which occurred in Medellin, 155 miles northwest of Bogota, tore through the offices of the Army's antikidnapping squad and leveled four surrounding square blocks. FARC did not immediately claim responsibility for the violence.

In an effort to make good on Israeli promises under the US-brokered Wye River accord, Prime Minister Ehud Barak appeared poised to relax the criteria for the release of Palestinian security prisoners. Under the agreement, Israel must release 700 such prisoners. Barak has reportedly agreed to the early release of 250 of the 2,000 Palestinians jailed in Israel if Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat allows Israeli settlers to postpone their withdrawal from some West Bank settlements.

After nearly two months of waiting, Indonesians were set to learn today the results of the first parliamentary elections in four decades. President B.J. Habibie was supposed to have released the results July 26, but he allowed a watchdog committee to investigate allegations made by a group of small parties of irregularities in the elections. The Election Watch Committee subsequently threw out the charges.

Rescuers worked to pluck residents from their flooded homes after two days of torrential rains ravaged the area between Seoul, South Korea, and the border with North Korea. At least nine people were found dead, and over 8,500 have fled their homes. Hundreds of people are being sheltered in government buildings and schools, while helicopters continued dropping food to people still stranded on roofs and hills. The heavy rains are expected to continue through tomorrow. Above, firefighters save some children stranded in Paju, north of Seoul.

Inching toward peace in the former Zaire, Congolese rebel faction leader Jean-Pierre Bemba signed a cease-fire pact in Lusaka, Zambia, at a ceremony witnessed by Zambian President Frederick Chiluba and Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa. Bemba, whose rebel group has been backed by Uganda and Rwanda in its battle against Congo President Laurent Kabila, backed by Namibia, Angola, and Zimbabwe, surprised many with his arrival in Lusaka. Vowing to "fight for the establishment of real democracy" in Congo, Bemba pledged his efforts for peace by accepting an accord already signed on July 10 by the six nations involved in the war.

Hundreds of Nicaraguans scrambled to beat the Saturday deadline of an amnesty program

to legalize their status in Costa Rica. Thousands sought refuge in the country following the devastation of Nicaragua from hurricane Mitch last October and have remained in the country illegally.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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