News In Brief

Some 75,000 police were deployed across India to avert a reprise of last week's rioting. Since the first of five phases of voting for parliamentary seats began three weeks ago, 62 Indians have been killed in poll-related violence. Amid rumors of widespread election fraud, two government ministers were arrested in Bihar Saturday, and the week's death toll rose to 42 in the unruly eastern province.

Fears of a full ground offensive in Chechnya mounted as Russian warplanes pounded the Muslim stronghold Grozny near the Dagestan border with a fourth day of airstrikes. Various media sources said 50,000 Russian troops are now stationed at its Chechen border. The Interfax news agency quoted Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev as saying there were "several options" for a ground operation in the North Caucasus area. Islamic Chechnya has enjoyed de facto independence since its 1996 defeat of Russian forces in a two-year war.

As young people in Dili shouted, "Viva independence!" a large contingent of Indonesian troops withdrew from East Timor Friday. Jakarta's military presence is expected to drop from 15,000 to 1,500 by tomorrow. In the meantime, international peacekeepers were going door to door in search of pro-Jakarta militia members. Australian General Peter Cosgrove, head of the UN multinational force formally requested that Indonesia conduct a national soul-searching investigation and punishment of those responsible for human-rights abuses on the island.

Meanwhile, following a two-day pause, Indonesian students vowed to return to the streets, protesting alleged abuses of power under President B.J. Habibie's regime. On Friday, the streets of Jakarta and Surabaya teemed with over 10,000 youths, enraged by atrocities in East Timor, bank scandals, and last week's passage of a security law giving the military increased power to squelch dissent. Seven people died in tussles with riot police.

Following the powerful 7.6-magnitude earthquake that rocked Taiwan last week, the country was hit by the strongest aftershock to date - at magnitude 6.5. Despite widespread mayhem, two brothers were found alive in the rubble, after surviving for five days.

Finance ministers and central-bank presidents from the world's wealthiest nations met in Washington Saturday to discuss the world's economy. Those at the G7 forum gave unanimous approval to efforts to stabalize the Japanese yen. They also agreed to endorse a new so-called "G20" forum, set to convene in Berlin at the end of the year. The G20 group will seek global economic cooperation on means to avoid such financial crises as the 1997-98 devastation in Asia, Latin America, and Russia.

Seven-time Italian premier Giulio Andreotti was acquitted of murder charges in Perugia, Italy. Analysts viewed the decision, clearing the former prime minister of the 1979 killing of a journalist, as an indication that he will also be exonerated in an upcoming trial for collusion with the Sicilian Mafia.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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