News In Brief

Civilians trapped by the fighting in breakaway Chechnya were pleading with invading Russian troops to let them out as shooting was reported inside the limits of the capital, Grozny. An exchange of fire with Chechen guerrillas, if confirmed, would be the first within the city since the Russian campaign began a month ago. Also not yet confirmed was a report that a $1 million bounty had been offered for the capture or death of guerrilla chief Shamil Basayev.

Powerful military chief of staff Wiranto lost his job in the Cabinet of new Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid. But the general was named to a still-influential post, political and security minister. He was replaced as defense minister by a civilian, the first time that has happened in four decades. Wahid said his Cabinet would make economic recovery its top goal.

Dozens of followers of the Falun Gong movement were pushed into police vans in Beijing's Tiananmen Square as they staged Day 2 of a civil disobedience demonstration. Reports said the banned group was trying to influence members of the National People's Congress, or parliament, to defeat a proposed law tightening controls over organizations that the Communist regime considers cults. But the protest was seen as proof of Falun Gong's continued popularity despite a three-month government crackdown.

The historic referendum 10 days from now on whether Australia should become a republic appears headed for defeat, new opinion polls showed. The long-awaited Nov. 6 vote offers the option of a home-grown president elected by Parliament to supplant Queen Elizabeth II. But The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald reported their surveys found only 41 percent and 33 percent, respectively, of voters who'd approve the measure. Voting is compulsory. If it passes, Australia would end 200 years of constitutional monarchy Jan. 1, 2001.

Because the praise he won abroad for managing the huge influx of refugees from Kosovo wasn't matched at home, Albanian Premier Pandeli Majko quit. He recently failed to win the leadership of his own Socialist Party and has been criticized by Albanians for his inability to halt corruption and smuggling.

Unruly supporters of ex-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide broke up a ceremony to kick off preparations for next spring's parliamentary elections in Haiti. Reports from the capital, Port-au-Prince, said militants doused elections officials with bottles of urine, kicked over chairs, and picked fights with those attending. Security police didn't intervene. Witnesses said the militants demanded the vote be delayed until after balloting for a new president, scheduled for late in the year.

In a potentially ominous move, the armed forces of financially troubled Ecuador warned that "certain leaders" were worsening the country's political, economic, and social crisis through their actions. A statement published in major newspapers called the provoking of "constant clashes," strikes, and scandals "absurd and dangerous." President Jamil Mahuad's proposed austerity budget is stalled in a Congress dominated by his opponents. Last month Ecuador defaulted on $44.5 million in interest payments on its foreign debt.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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