News In Brief

The arrival of specially trained riot police failed to put an immediate stop to acts of intimidation by anti-independence militiamen in East Timor. Another day of roadblocks as well as threats against and searches for separatist supporters caused hundreds of people to flee rather than become targets of violence. And UN officials were pleading for better protection as they counted the votes from Monday's referendum on autonomy. The Indonesian government estimated one-quarter of the population would leave, especially if a majority of voters chose independence.

The release of a few dozen Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails was the lone issue holding up final agreement on implementation of the land-for-peace deal that both sides hoped to sign in the presence of Secretary of State Albright. Israeli officials were absent as dignitaries gathered in Alexandria, Egypt, to meet her. Prime Minister Ehud Barak had no plans to make such a trip, his office said.

Only two days after the final signatures went on the cease-fire accord in Congo's civil war, it appeared on the brink of collapse. Zambian President Frederick Chiluba, who brokered the deal, was shuttling between rival factions of the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy - one backed by Uganda, the other by Rwanda - whose leaders could not agree on how the truce should be implemented. But one rebel leader said, "The whole process has huge problems." Chiluba was expected to be joined today by South African President Thabo Mbeki in efforts to save the deal.

The final state of the union address by President Ernesto Zedillo before next year's national election turned into one of the most raucous scenes in Mexican political history. Opposition members of Congress repeatedly interrupted him by heckling. In turn, lawmakers from his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) shouted down the opposition's response, a stinging attack on his record. Despite Zedillo's all-time high in personal popularity, a majority of Mexicans polled by the University of Guadalajara said the new president should come from an opposition party. The PRI has ruled without interruption since 1929.

A general strike by more than 1 million workers was to end in Colombia after union leaders agreed it had become unacceptably violent. They and the Labor Ministry gave themselves a month to try to resolve such issues as unhappiness over the government's austerity program, especially the privatization of state-owned industries. Authorities blamed the strike, which leftist guerrillas used as an opportunity to launch new attacks, for 65 deaths nationwide. Rebels were still holding dozens of workers hostage at a power plant they'd seized.

As few as 2 percent of women of child-bearing age were expected to buy birth-control pills as they went on sale in Japan for the first time. The contraceptives arrived on the market three months after being cleared for sale by authorities - and nine years after pharmaceutical companies applied to have them OK'd. Prospects for sluggish sales were based on conservative attitudes toward women in male-dominated Japan, the availability of legal abortions, and a requirement that pill users first undergo a medical checkup, analysts said.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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