News In Brief

All doubt about what might have caused the second major explosion at a Moscow apartment complex in less than a week was erased by authorities: They were treating it as a terrorist attack. At least 43 people died, 23 others were hurt, and dozens were missing. Mayor Yuri Luzh-kov blamed "Chechen bandits" for the attack, and President Boris Yeltsin ordered security tightened at nuclear power stations, airports, and other potential targets. The blast took place four miles from last Thursday's, which killed 93 people. Its cause has yet to be firmly established.

New obstacles were strewn in the path of the UN by Indonesians a day after President B.J. Habibie OK'd a multinational peacekeeping force for East Timor. A committee of parliament asked him to block three countries most likely to contribute troops to the force - Australia, New Zealand, and Portugal - plus the US and Canada. Australia hopes to lead the peacekeeping effort. Analysts also noted that Habibie made no mention of withdrawing Indonesian security forces from the troubled territory. They are widely blamed for abetting a rampage by anti-independence elements that has killed an unknown number of separatists and driven out hundreds of thousands of others.

Festive ceremonies were to precede the official opening of so-called "final status" negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on the most difficult issues still before them: clearly defined borders, the future of Jewish settlements in Arab-occupied areas, whether displaced Palestinians may return to Israeli soil, and which side gets sovereignty over Jeru-salem. By Feb. 15, the negotiators are to present the outlines of a deal, and the deadline for completion is next September. Representatives of both sides show off a map of 16 West Bank areas Israel is transferring to Palestinian control.

A new and even worse-than-expected series of defeats was dealt to German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder's Social Democratic Party (SPD) in state and local elections Sunday. The SPD fell from power all the way to third place in the eastern state of Thuringia - the fourth such loss since February. In Cologne, Duesseldorf, and other cities in North Rhine-Westphalia, a traditional SPD stronghold, the party lost multiple offices - its worst showing since 1946. Saxony holds state elections on Sunday, and opinion polls indicate the SPD will lose heavily there as well.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government was under increasing pressure to prosecute a British great-grandmother exposed as a nuclear spy for the Soviet Union for more than 40 years. Melita Norwood, who passed secrets to the Soviet KGB, and former Scotland Yard officer John Symonds are the first to be identified in an emerging spy scandal that's being called Britain's worst in a generation.

A strong midafternoon earthquake collapsed buildings already weakened by last month's temblor in northwestern Turkey. The new earthquake was blamed for at least six deaths and more than 200 injuries. The Aug. 17 quake devastated the country's main industrial region, causing more than 15,000 deaths.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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