News In Brief

As many as 1.5 million people jammed the capital of Aceh province in defiance of the proclamation by Indonesia's military that a referendum on independence was "not realistic." The rally for separatism was being called the largest in the nation's history. An armed forces spokesman appeared to be at odds with President Abdurrahman Wahid, who said last week he was prepared to offer an East Timor-type vote on autonomy. At least 2,000 Acehnese are believed to have died in the military's crackdown against separatist rebels.

Infantry reinforcements and additional artillery pieces were being sent by Russia to breakaway Chechnya as the region's top rebel chief vowed the heaviest fighting "has not yet begun." Shamil Basayev said Russian troops would find upland areas far harder to capture than the low, open ground already under their control. Chechen forces halted the Russian advance Sunday, using rockets, but the invaders did not yield any ground they were occupying.

Manslaughter convictions against the last Communist chief of East Germany and two deputies were upheld by an appeals court on the eve of 10th-anniversary celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall. Egon Krenz and his aides were sentenced in 1997 to 6-1/2 and 3 years in prison, respectively, for their roles in the deaths of people trying to cross the heavily fortified dividing line into West Germany.

More than 60 percent of the Falun Gong followers rounded up and sent home have returned to Beijing, China's State Council said - in an unusual admission of the difficulty the government is having in intimidating the controversial movement. A spokesman also said at least two members of the banned organization have died in custody since the government crackdown began 3-1/2 months ago. Human-rights groups say six have died - four by suicide.

An apparent landslide victory in the first presidential primary by Mexico's ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) made ex-Interior Minister Francisco Labastida the early favorite in national elections next July. Labastida, already perceived as the choice of incumbent President Ernesto Zedillo, was defeating his closest rival, Tabasco Gov. Roberto Madrazo, in 272 of the PRI's 300 districts in preliminary vote-counting.

A mock trial of President Clinton was scheduled for the main square in Athens in another demonstration of Greek anger at his imminent arrival, the first visit by a US leader since 1991. The trial for "international meddling" was to follow attacks against a Greek-American cultural institution and a store selling Levis jeans. Much of the antipathy is blamed on US bombing in neighboring Yugoslavia earlier this year. Analysts said the protests put Premier Costas Simitis in an awkward spot as he tries to keep them out of sight during Clinton's visit without angering protesters whose votes he'll need in next year's election.

The worst flooding this century was blamed for 512 deaths in Vietnam, and authorities said more than 1 million other people were without food and fresh water. Early estimates of property damage were put at $51 million. So much rain fell from a tropical depression that the central Perfume River rose 18 feet in less than 24 hours.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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