News In Brief

There were optimistic predictions that India would have its first stable government in years as unofficial results from the elections of the past five weeks gave Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's coalition a comfortable majority in Parliament. His 22-party alliance, led by Hindu nationalists, had 272 seats of the 543 in the lower house - with TV news projections indicating it would win at least 22 more. The opposition Congress Party, which had hoped to return to power with a coalition of smaller allies, had won 123 seats. The elections were the third in three years for a new national government.

The political party of opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri was trying to put the best face possible on news that an ex-ally had accepted his party's nomination for president of Indonesia. Abdurrahman Wahid, also called Gus Dur, said he'd represent the Muslim-based National Awakening Party (PKB) in the Oct. 20 election. The PKB, until Wednesday, was pledged to support Megawati against the widely unpopular interim head of state, B.J. Habibie. An aide to Megawati, who all summer seemed poised to become Indonesia's first woman president, said efforts now would intensify to win the support of still-uncommitted parties.

For the time being, Russian troops were fortifying their positions along the river that divides the northern plains of Chechnya from the mountainous south, the presumed hiding place of thousands of Islamic militants. In Moscow, the Kremlin said it would "gratefully accept" humanitarian aid to help cope with the influx of Chechen refugees but wouldn't welcome foreign efforts to negotiate an end to the fighting.

After three days of sending mixed messages about the take-over of its embassy in Thailand by armed dissidents, the military junta of Burma (Myanmar) suspended the rights of Thai fishing boats in Burmese waters. That leaves thousands of commercial fishermen - many of them Burmese migrants - out of work. There was no word on whether fees paid for use of the waters would be returned. Earlier, Burma warned of damage to bilateral relations, but then hailed Thailand for bringing the embassy takeover to a peaceful end.

The beleaguered political party of German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder appeared certain to absorb another heavy defeat Sunday when voters go to the polls for regional elections in Berlin. Opinion surveys showed Schrder's Social Democrats (SPD) would win as little as 17 percent of the ballots. The SPD is reeling from five straight losses in state elections, plus the ousting of many incumbents from local offices.

Four years of important national achievements seemed likely to propel the ruling Socialist Party of Portugal to a new victory in national elections Sunday. Under Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, Portugal has held a world's fair, won its first Nobel Prize in Literature, qualified for membership in new single-currency system of the European Union, and prodded world leaders into taking action on the crisis in East Timor, its former colony struggling for independence from Indonesia.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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