News In Brief

The 70-year grip on power by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico appeared likely to continue after months of negotiations to form a viable opposition alliance collapsed. Leaders of the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party and conservative National Action Party, the PRI's strongest challengers, couldn't agree on how to nominate a joint candidate for next July's presidential election. As last-ditch efforts were ending, Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtmoc Cardenas (accepting a child's gift outside City Hall) served his final day in office before devoting full time to campaigning as the Democratic Revolution Party's candidate.

A UN fact-finding mission on atrocities in East Timor was rejected by the Indonesian government. Instead, a spokesman for President B.J. Habibie said, foreign investigators could join Indonesia's own probe of abuses. Amplifying that stand, Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces chief, said "all parties" to the East Timor crisis had committed abuses, including supporters of independence for the restive province, where thousands of people are believed to have been killed. US Defense Secretary Cohen, due to meet with Habibie and Wiranto today in Jakarta, said Indonesia risked "political isolation" and "some economic consequences" if its troops in East Timor were not shackled.

An urgent meeting on the crisis in Chechnya failed to take place when angry protesters blocked the motorcades of both President Aslan Maskhadov and a surrogate for the Russian leadership. They were to discuss ending a week of airstrikes against key targets that, the Chechens say, have killed 300 civilians so far. The raids by Russian jets are in retaliation for the violent insurgency in neighboring Dagestan by Islamic militants who, the Kremlin believes, are using Chechnya as their base. The protesters, all Dagestani villagers, demanded that Maskhadov apologize for rebel incursions last month.

Opponents of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic were hoping that a key meeting tonight would produce a common strategy to oust him from power. A deep split between the Alliance for Change, which has led daily protests in key cities to demand that Milosevic quit, and the Serbian Renewal Movement has scattered the fire of the opposition. The latter's charismatic leader, Vuk Draskovic, has insisted that national elections should come before Milosevic's resignation. Meanwhile, the alliance called a "march on Dedinje," the posh Belgrade district where Milosevic lives. But his powerful police force was considered unlikely to permit it.

A week-long hearing on whether ex-Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet should be extradited to Spain for trial is expected to conclude today in London, where he's under house arrest. But the case took a new turn when Spain's Foreign Ministry hinted it agreed with Chile that the International Court of Justice in The Hague should resolve the issue.

Forecasters predicted no letup for the rest of the week in the rains that have caused massive flooding across Central America. A state of emergency, already in place, was extended to Nov. 1 in Honduras, where 13 people have died, tens of thousands are stranded, and 12,000 acres of farmland are under water. Rain has fallen for 17 straight days in Honduras, which is struggling to rebound from hurricane Mitch last fall. Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and El Salvador also are flooded.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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