News In Brief

Catholics were reporting to Protestants, and vice versa, as the departments of Northern Ireland's new government prepared to receive self-rule powers from Britain. But the process was not without incident as hard-line Protestants hissed at the election of reputed ex-Irish Republican Army commander Martin McGuinness to the post of education minister. Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland government was to rescind articles in the Constitution that make territorial claims on the North.

Secret attempts have been made to arrange a meeting with the leader of the separatist rebels in Aceh, Indonesia's new president revealed. Abdurrahman Wahid said he sought the talks to prevent his sprawling nation from breaking apart since it is widely believed that if Aceh secedes other disaffected regions could follow. Separatist chief Hasan Tiro, in exile in Sweden, previously has refused to meet with government envoys and his spokesmen denied he has spoken with Wahid by telephone.

Five dissidents arrested for signing a petition that accuses Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat of corruption, backed away from it. In a new statement, they said they didn't intend to harm Arafat or to "create strife." The move came as the Palestinian Legislative Council was to debate lifting the immunity from arrest of nine of its members who also signed. One of the nine said he was "misled" to believe the petition would not be made public.

FBI agents were en route to an area near Ciudad Jurez, Mexico, to help recover and identify the remains of as many as 100 people believed to have been murdered by drug traffickers. The victims reportedly were found in mass graves on two ranches. The office of Mexico's attorney general said the FBI had been enlisted because 22 of the victims may have been US citizens. Ciudad Jurez has been the base of a cocaine cartel whose leader died in 1997.

Despite its landslide victory and a fifth consecutive five-year term for Prime Minister Malathir Mohamad, danger signs emerged for Malaysia's ruling National Front coalition. Following Monday's national election, the front's share of the vote dropped from its 1995 percentage, Islamic fundamentalists won control of two states for the first time, the opposition doubled its seats in parliament, and the wife of Malathir's chief rival, jailed former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, succeded in her bid to take his place in the lower house.

The cause of political rights for women in Kuwait went down to defeat for the second time in two weeks in the oil-rich state's all-male parliament. By a two-vote margin, legislators rejected a measure that would have allowed females to vote and seek elective office. Last week, parliament exercised its right to veto a decree by Emir Sheikh Jaber al-Ahman al-Sabah granting full participation in elections to women, but proponents resubmitted it in the form of a bill and forced it to the top of the legislative agenda.

Welcoming ceremonies were held in Sierra Leone for the first wave of UN peacekeepers. When fully in place, the 6,000-strong force will be the largest such mission in Africa since 7,000 UN troops served in Angola from 1995 to mid-1997. The new peacekeepers are to disarm the combatants in Sierra Leone's civil war, monitor adherence to a peace accord signed in July, and ensure distribution of humanitarian aid.

The cost of repairing or replacing the property damaged by the Oct. 29 cyclone that struck the Indian coastal state of Orissa was set at $1.5 billion by government officials. The storm also caused 9,885 deaths.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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