News In Brief

"We have stopped everything," an anti-independence militia leader in East Timor said in announcing that his and similar groups have declared a "cease-fire" in the devastated province. Their four-day rampage is believed to have resulted in hundreds of deaths of independence supporters, and - the UN estimates - an exodus from the province of up to 200,000 others. The militia chief said "all security matters" had been turned over to Indonesian troops and police. But in Dili, the capital, a reporter said gunfire still could be heard. The rampage began after the UN announced almost 80 percent of voters in the Aug. 30 referendum had chosen independence by rejecting an offer of autonomy from Indonesia.

The UN changed course and was vowing to keep at least a skeleton staff in Dili, despite announcing earlier that all its personnel would be evacuated. But Indonesia again rejected international pressure to allow a UN peacekeeping force into the province.

Despite official denials that a military coup has supplanted President B. J. Habibie, diplomats said Indonesia effectively now is under the control of Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces chief. Sources with long experience in Indonesia attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in New Zealand said it was clear Habibie had lost control of the military, which already was angry over his decision to allow the East Timor vote. In Jakarta, published reports said Habibie had raised the idea of resigning earlier this week. Worries about the government's future sent share prices of all but 27 stocks plunging on the Jakarta exchange.

In a sign that the Middle East peace process is back on track, Israel freed 199 Palestinians who'd been held in prison as security risks. One other prisoner refused his release. The hand-over came a day earlier than required under the agreement signed by both sides last week on implementing their land-for-peace deal. Another 150 Palestinians are due to be freed Oct. 8 and a yet-to-be-determined number prior to the start of the Islamic fasting month, Rama-dan, in December.

Protestants in Northern Ireland reacted angrily to a new report proposing major reforms in the policing of the province. Although a commission chaired by ex-Hong Kong Gov. Chris Patten rejected Catholic calls to disband the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), its recommendations were "a gratuitous insult," the largest Protestant political party said. The commission proposed cutting the RUC by almost half, changing its membership from 8 percent Catholic to 50 percent, and other measures. The proposals now will be put to a lengthy review.

The entire nine-story center of a massive apartment building in Moscow collapsed in a late-night explosion, killing at least 23 people and injuring more than 150 others. Up to 100 residents were believed trapped in the rubble. A caller to a news agency claimed the blast was in retaliation for Russia's military campaign against Islamic rebels in the Caucasus region of Dagestan. But authorities speculated that a natural-gas leak may have caused it.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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