News In Brief

As president Boris Yeltsin, in Moscow, was saying, "Russian soldiers are bringing peace back" to Chechnya, Air Force jets pounded the capital, Grozny, in some of the heaviest attacks to date. But Chechen commanders appeared confident they could defend the city as they did in inflicting heavy losses on Russian troops during the 1994-96 war. Chechen government forces were reported side by side with the Islamic militants Russia is attempting to crush.

Unidentified gunmen killed Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian of Armenia and at least eight other people in an attack on parlaiment that threatened to plunge the former Soviet republic into political crisis. Four of the other victims also were senior government officials. As the Monitor went to press, the assailants were holding dozens of hostages inside the building, demanding to speak on national TV. Witnesses said the gunmen shouted "This is a coup!" before the shooting began.

Amid protests and threats by exiled political dissidents, President Mohamad Khatami arrived in France for the first visit by an Iranian leader since his country's 1979 Islamic revolution. Police swooped in on known activists, arresting at least 30 in the hours before Khatami's plane landed. In addition to meeting with President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, his visit was aimed at securing lucrative business deals. Despite his relatively moderate politics, Khatami was expected to face questions about Iran's human-rights record.

The investigation of alleged corruption by ex-Indonesian President Suharto will be reopened, the country's new attorney general said. Marzuki Darusman said "public pressure" was forcing the issue and that newly elected leader Abdurrahman Wahid couldn't afford to be seen as "not serious" in ending the case. A probe of Suharto's ties to certain charities was closed by Wahid's predecessor, B.J. Habibie, days before the election. Under Suharto, who quit in disgrace last year, Indonesia was considered one of the world's most corrupt nations.

A new call for a government crackdown against Islamic fundamentalism was expected as Turkey's powerful National Security Council held its first meeting since the murder of a popular newspaper columnist by suspected Muslim radicals. The meeting followed by one day a similar alarm from the nation's chief prosecutor. The council's concern was underscored last Saturday at the funeral of staunchly secularist Ahmet Taner Kisali, which was attended by hundreds of uniformed Army officers. The armed forces have unseated three governments since 1960.

Saying, "There is a careful development of trust between our two countries," Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou wound up a meeting with his Turkish counterpart - the latest indication that relations are pointed in "the right direction." Papandreou and Ismail Cem both acknowledged the long animosity between their countries was eased by exchanges of help over the summer when each was hit by a powerful earthquake. But they left open the question of whether Greece would help Turkey in its bid to join the European Union.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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