News In Brief

Not until all suspected "terrorists" are handed over by the Chechen government can negotiations be held on ending the fighting in the breakaway region, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said. He was responding to a proposal by President Aslan Maskhadov to crack down on Islamic militants using Chechen territory as their base if Russian would end its two-week invasion and withdraw its troops. Russia holds the militants responsible for a separatist campaign in neighboring Dagestan and a series of bomb blasts in Moscow and other cities that have killed almost 300 civilians.

A joint investigative unit was formed by Indonesian military officials and the multinational intervention force in East Timor to probe the shooting death of a policeman. But the Indonesians were accusing Australian-led peacekeepers of responsibility for the incident, which appeared to be the first clash between the two sides since the latter were deployed Sept. 20. The intervention force blamed anti-independence militiamen for starting the firefight that resulted in the policeman's death.

Protestants and Catholics reacted in opposite ways to word that Britain's Secretary for Northern Ireland was being replaced in a Cabinet shakeup by Prime Minister Blair. Catholics praised Mo Mowlam, who had held the post since May 1997. But Protestants welcomed her apparent successor, Peter Mandelson. He had been trade and industry secretary until last December, when he resigned amid controversy over his financial affairs. The Northern Ireland peace process is believed to be in danger of collapse, 1-1/2 years after the signing of the so-called Good Friday accord.

Three-quarters of the rainfall averaged by New York in an entire year drenched the eastern Mexico city of Tezuitlan over the weekend, adding to the flooding that's being called the nation's worst natural disaster of the decade. Authorities raised the number of deaths to 342. President Ernesto Zedillo toured the hardest-hit areas, promising: "We won't fail you." But in Villahermosa, the capital of Tabasco state, at least 100 people were arrested for protesting government-built barriers that kept flooding from some neighborhoods by diverting it into others.

A smaller-than-expected defeat at the polls Sunday was being called a change in the trend by German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder. His Social Democratic Party (SPD) took 22.4 percent of the vote in state-assembly elections in Berlin, its sixth consecutive embarrassment this year. But, while finishing second to the conservative Christian Democrats, the SPD avoided falling below 20 percent or sliding to third place behind a former communist party.

All-but-complete vote totals gave Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and his Socialist Party the return to power they sought - but with too few seats in parliament to press ahead with wide-ranging social and economic reforms unless opposition lawmakers choose to help. The conservative Social Democratic Party appeared to be the biggest loser, with a five- to nine-seat drop in parliament.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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