News In Brief

Conceding that the situation in East Timor was out of control, the UN was to evacuate all of its personnel today - throwing into disarray plans to help turn the troubled province into an independent country. It was uncertain what would happen to more than 1,000 frightened Timorese who sought refuge in the UN compound. Meanwhile, five Security Council delegates arrived in the Indonesian capital and met with Foreign Minister Ali Alatas. But it appeared the Jakarta government would not relent in its refusal to allow international peacekeepers to replace the police and troops who've been accused of helping rampaging anti-independence mobs.

Leaked portions of a highly sensitive report on the future of Northern Ireland appeared certain to anger Protestants. The report, due to be published today by a blue-ribbon panel under the chairmanship of ex-Hong Kong governor Chris Patten, is believed to propose radical changes in the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), Northern Ireland's controversial police force. Among them: a cut in the ranks from 13,000 officers to 8,000, and a new name - the Northern Ireland Police Service. Many Protestants take pride in the RUC, which has endured heavy casualties in 30 years of sectarian fighting, and the proposals are seen as a bid to curry favor among the Catholic minority.

More than 700 aftershocks followed the earthquake that struck Athens Tuesday, and authorities said the number of deaths had climbed past 50. Residents were warned to stay out of structures that were even slightly damaged until inspectors had examined them. Meanwhile, local news media offered high praise for a team of rescue workers from rival Turkey who were on the scene (in orange suits) within hours of the quake - a reciprocal gesture for Greece's help after the Aug. 17 tremor in Turkey.

Contrary to its earlier pledge, the government of Pakistan cannot sign the nuclear Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty - at least not this year, Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz said. He said the atmosphere of international pressure for Pakistan's signature hadn't ended, a condition set by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the the time of the pledge. Other officials have said that signing remains inadvisable as long as rival India "may conduct further nuclear tests."

On suspicion of corruption, eight judges were fired by the new Constitutional Assembly in Venezuela as it moved to extend its power over institutions of government. A spokesman said 50 other judges were likely to follow after the assembly's judicial-reform commission reviewed thousands of allegations against them. The assembly already has virtually shut down Congress and last month declared a "judicial emergency."

The presidential candidate who leads all rivals in the latest opinion poll for Guatemala's Nov. 7 election stunned the nation by admitting he shot two Mexicans to death and then fled to escape trial. Alfonso Portillo of the right-wing Republican Front said he'd acted in self-defense in 1982 when, as a professor in the Mexican state of Guerrero, he killed two students and wounded a third. He was charged with murder, but Mexico closed the case after the statute of limitations expired.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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