News In Brief

More than 1,600 people were reported dead, and property damage could top $3 billion as a result of a powerful earthquake that struck Taiwan in the middle of the night, officials said. At least 3,900 injuries were reported, and as many as 2,600 people were said to be trapped inside collapsed buildings. In Beijing, despite weeks of rhetoric aimed at intimidating Taiwan, the Chinese government sent prompt condolences and offered "all assistance within our capability."

The second wave of arriving peacekeepers in East Timor was greeted by cheers from crowds of relieved independence supporters. But the commander of the UN intervention force warned it would be "a number of weeks" before the province is fully under control and that conditions would remain dangerous in the meantime. As he spoke, a clash between pro- and anti-independence militiamen resulted in four deaths.

In return for last-minute concessions by NATO, leaders of the Kosovo Liberation Army finally signed a demobilization agreement. NATO negotiators OK'd a new name - Kosovo Protection Corps - and agreed that additional members could carry guns beyond the 200 called for in the original plan. The deal was to have been inked Sunday.

Twenty cities and towns across Serbia were bracing for a new round of protests against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, although it was unclear they would have much more impact than rallies in July and August. Perhaps the key Milosevic opponent, Vuk Draskovic, who has swung between calling for his resignation and hoping the government would reform itself, said he'd "wait for the next 10 days" before deciding whether to join the new protests.

Using the 27th anniversary of the declaration of martial law, an estimated 100,000 Filipinos clogged the major cities to protest President Joseph Estrada's plan to rewrite the Constitution. Estrada is accused of wanting to eliminate a provision limiting the president to one six-year term. Demonstration organizers invoked memories of Sept. 21, 1972, when President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law, under which he ruled repressively until driven into exile in 1986.

Three men arrested in early July for attempting to smuggle Cubans to the US drew harsh sentences under the Havana government's new penal code. A Florida resident of Cuban birth, Joel Dorta Garcia, was ordered to serve the rest of his life in prison. He is in his mid-20s. Two others were sentenced to 30- and 15-year terms. Their boat was carrying 14 people when it overturned in rough water off Mariel, Cuba, killing one passenger.

A half-billion-dollar backlog in state pension payments to Russia's retirees has been erased, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. The backlog, one of the most sensitive issues in the beleaguered country's ongoing financial crisis, had kept many elderly people without income for months. The average pension pays $16 a month, less than half the amount set by the government as the poverty line.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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