News In Brief

Making good on his pledge, the military ruler of Pakistan was pulling troops back from the border with rival India. Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf also told a national TV audience Sunday night that his forces would remain in power no longer than necessary. He announced formation of a National Security Council composed of senior officers and experts in legal, national, and foreign affairs to govern the country but did not specify for how long.

Indonesia's capital was uneasy on the eve of today's vote for president by a special consultative assembly. Police reinforcements were rushed to Jakarta as thousands of supporters of opposition candidate Megawati Sukarnoputri crowded into the city and more thousands were reported en route from outlying communities. She faces two other candidates, interim President B.J.Habibie and the leader of Indonesia's largest Islamic organization, Abdurrahman Wahid, also called Gus Dur.

Agreement was reached on the language of a decree that would formally free East Timor from 23 years of Indonesian rule. Members of parliament were expected promptly to OK the decree, which calls for ratification of the Aug. 30 Timorese autonomy referendum. The referendum was overwhelmingly defeated, setting off a new wave of political violence. Resistance leader Xanana Gusmao, who's expected to return home from exile this week to become East Timor's first president, ruled out sharing power with anti-independence militiamen.

"There will be no storming of Grozny," a senior Russian general insisted. But he said his forces will continue to pound targets in Chechnya that are useful to Muslim guerrillas, whom Russia blames for a separatist insurgency in neighboring Dagestan and for bombing of civilian apartment complexes in Moscow and other cities. Russian troops clashed with Chechen forces on the northern outskirts of the capital yesterday but did not shell the city, although they're close enough to do so.

"The West" was behind a street protest by thousands of Belarusians that turned violent, resulting in dozens of injuries and 92 arrests, an aide to President Alexander Lukashenko claimed. Riot police intervened Sunday when participants in a rally in the capital, Minsk, tried to march to Lukashenko's residence. The rally was called to protest his drive for unification with Russia and the arrests and disappearances of several opposition leaders in recent months. Lukashenko's hard-line leadership is widely unpopular, especially since a 1996 referendum that expanded his powers and term in office.

Special coding used to identify Gypsies aboard flights from the Czech Republic to Britain has been eliminated, an official of the Czech state airline, CSA, said. But he denied that placing a "G" on passenger lists next to Gypsy names was part of a deal with British officials, who've threatened to introduce new visa requirements for all Czechs if the number of asylum-seekers grows too large. Already, more Gypsies have asked for asylum this year than in 1998. Word of the CSA policy has been circulating via the Internet.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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