News In Brief

Tensions worsened in east Timor as newly arrived UN peacekeepers came under fire, either from hostile anti-independence militiamen or from undisciplined Indonesian troops. No injuries were reported, but the Australian commander of the intervention force warned that his men would shoot to kill if they encountered further challenges to their authority. There also were reports that hostile militias were massing on the West Timor side of the island's dividing line.

Violent protests by thousands of university students erupted across Indonesia after parliament OK'd a measure granting the military power to revoke civil liberties in times of emergency. Reports said at least three demonstrators died in clashes with riot police in the capital, Jakarta, with 53 others hurt. Protests also took place in Surabaya, Yogjakarta, and other cities, on the tourist island of Bali, and in restive Aceh province. The military, already the dominant force in Indonesia, was given authority to take over all systems of communication and restrict the freedom of expression.

Police defused a powerful bomb before it could go off in the basement of a 12-story apartment building in the Russian city of Ryazan. Authorities said the timer was set for dawn, when most residents still would be sleeping. Suspicion fell on Islamic militants, who are blamed for four earlier explosions that killed more than 300 people in Moscow and Volgodonsk.

Choosing its words carefully, the government of Taiwan told China its offer of help in the aftermath of this week's powerful earthquake was "appreciated" but not needed. China had extended condolences and said it was ready to send medical teams to help attend to the 7,000 people reported hurt in the quake. More than 2,000 others died, authorities said. The emergency aside, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said Taiwanese President Lee Teng Hui's insistence that the two governments should treat other as states remained an obstacle.

A bomb exploded prematurely, killing the man carrying it in front of a polling station in Yemen as voters waited to participate in the country's first direct election for president. The violence occurred despite intensive security, with camouflaged soldiers frisking men for weapons before allowing them inside to cast ballots. Only one obscure politician was challenging President Ali Abdullah Saleh's bid for a new term, ensuring an easy victory. Twenty-eight other candidates were rejected by parliament, which Saleh's General People's Congress Party dominates.

All doubt about whether producer nations would ease the supply of crude oil vanished when the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries voted to continue its cutbacks until at least April 1. Its ministers, meeting in Vienna, said their decision was motivated by an ongoing abundance of oil on world markets "which could at any time have a negative impact on prices." Prices have risen steadily since the cuts were agreed to last March.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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