News In Brief

The new prime minister of Russia agreed with US officials that refugees from the fighting in Chechnya were "suffering," but countered by asking" "Who's to blame?" Vladimir Putin was meeting with President Clinton on the sidelines of a tribute to the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in Oslo. Earlier, other American officials pleaded the case of tens of thousands of Chechen civilians trapped inside Russian blockades amid worsening weather. Putin blamed the Russian invasion of the breakaway region on "bandit groups" who were armed and trained by other countries.

Permission was granted for an observer mission to assess the impact of the assault on Chechnya, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said. But analysts said they doubted Russia would allow the OSCE observers into Chechnya itself. Such requests always have been refused in the past, and Russia so far has ignored calls to scale down its offensive as civilian casualties mount.

Comparisons were being drawn in Germany's news media between a teenager's shooting rampage that killed four people and similar incidents in the US. Police in the resort town of Bad Reichenhall found the youth and his sister dead inside their home six hours after his last shot was heard. He'd also killed two passersby and wounded eight others. Such incidents are almost unheard of in Western Europe, although friends said the gunman had expressed admiration for the April 20 Columbine High School shootings in Colorado.

Deeper cracks were opening between rival rebel commanders that could threaten both the fragile peace and new national unity government in Sierra Leone. Ex-junta leader Johnny Paul Koroma accused guerrilla followers of Revolutionary United Front chief Foday Sankok of a "gross violation" of the nation's peace accord, which froze all troop deployments. Sankoh's forces took over two towns Sunday that Koroma's men had held when the accord was signed in July. A total of 45,000 combatants remain to be disarmed under terms of the deal.

Tamil separatists were on both the giving and receiving end of new violence in Sri Lanka. Reports said an encampment of Army troops was overrun by rebels of the Tamil Tiger movement, with hundreds of deaths. Army spokesmen said only that they'd heard the reports and that helicopter gunships had been sent to the area. Meanwhile, in Colombo, the capital, the editor of Sri Lanka's most widely read Tamil-language newspaper was assassinated. Ramesh Nadarajah, also a member of Parliament, had criticized moderates in the separatist movement and advocated support for its militant wing.

Voting on a measure that would grant full political rights to women in Kuwait was scheduled for next Tuesday by the oil state's all-male parliament. It is part of a package of decrees issued in May by Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah that may be OK'd or rejected, but not amended. Its prospects were uncertain; opponents say the emir's decree failed to meet a constitutional requirement for urgency. Only two Persian Gulf states, Oman and Qatar, allow woman any participation in electoral politics.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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