News In Brief

Despite their government's pledge of cooperation with the UN intervention force in East Timor, there was dissent on other fronts by Indonesians. An adviser to President B.J. Habibie suggested that Australian troops - slated to lead the peacekeeping effort - would be singled out for attack by anti-independence militias. Many Indonesians resent Australian criticism of East Timor's descent into chaos following the Aug. 30 referendum on autonomy. There also were scuffles between anti- and pro-independence supporters outside the British Embassy in Jakarta, where Timorese separatist leader Xanana Gusmao is staying temporarily.

Refugees from the violence in East Timor are being pursued across the dividing line into the island's western sector by anti-independence squads, UN officials reported. They accused such units of hunting down and executing activists for East Timor's independence at a government-run camp in Kupang, West Timor. Staffers from the UN and the Oxfam aid agency also said militiamen were denying them access to the camp.

Damage to the Bahamas from hurricane Floyd can only be guessed at so far, experts said, as the storm's final winds were leaving the island nation. With utility lines down in the most-populated areas, communications were difficult, although residents and tourists were able to emerge from boarded-up dwellings, hotels, and shelters. Hardest-hit were the capital, Nassau, and the islands of Eleuthera and Great Abaco.

No one with links to the alleged diversion of billions of dollars in loans made to the Russian government would comment on a Moscow prosecutor's claim that much of the money flowed into the coffers of privately owned banks. Yuri Skuratov said he believed $3.9 billion of an International Monetary Fund loan intended to firm up the floundering ruble was sold instead to 18 well-connected banks eager to protect themselves by converting their assets to dollars. Russia's Central Bank declined to address the matter. The IMF's Moscow office referred all questions to its headquarters in Washington. Skuratov was suspended from his duties earlier this year as he pursued an investigation into high-level corruption in the Kremlin.

Apparently for the first time, the ex-dictator of Chile, Augusto Pinochet, publicly expressed regret for the "acts of violence" during his 17-year rule. At least 3,197 political murders are known to have been committed in Chile in that span. Pinochet put the regrets in a letter to Chile's Senate president from London, where he awaits possible extradition to Spain for trial on the kidnapping, torture, and deaths of its nationals who lived in Chile during his rule.

By a vote of 404 to 153, the European Parliament OK'd former Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and his deputies to head the European Union's executive commission. The move ends six months of crisis over fraud and mismanagement under Prodi's predecessor, Jacques Santer, which hamstrung the commission.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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