News In Brief

Global leaders were seeking to put the best face possible on the collapse of the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle. French officials said failure to set the agenda for the next round of negotiations was "preferable to a bad agreement." The chief of Germany's delegation said "reasonable" results could only be expected in "two to three years." Prime Minister Jean Chrtien of Canada said he wasn't surprised at the Seattle outcome because the issues were complex and "everybody faced some very serious problems." India looks forward to the resumption of talks, but with "renewed anxiety," Prime Minister Vajpayee said. A new round of meetings is planned for the first half of next year in Geneva.

Without saying where or when, the Irish Republican Army announced its representative had held a promised first meeting with Northern Ireland's disarmament commission. The IRA also did not identify its representative but said "it is anticipated that further discussions will take place." The meeting is seen as a crucial step in the incremental peace process. The IRA has yet to promise it will surrender its weapons. But acting on that hope, Protestants last week joined Catholics in a 12-member Cabinet that will preside over the governing of the province.

The battle for Chechnya's capital has begun now that Russian troops have the city surrounded, a rebel Web site announced. For their part, Russian commanders conceded that the so far largely air and artillery war had turned into what they wanted to avoid - a clash of guerrilla tactics. And an admission that the Army has been using recent conscripts appeared to contradict earlier promises that only seasoned troops would be used in Chechnya.

Calm returned to the cities of restive Aceh province after Indonesian security forces fired on protesters on the anniversary of its separatist movement. At least 11 people were wounded, and someone set fire to six coffee shops. Separatist leaders warned of additional violence following the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which begins Thursday, and predicted it would be precipitated by the Indonesian military.

Amid gloomy prospects for the outline of a final peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians by February, US envoy Dennis Ross made another stop in Jerusalem. His mission is to prepare for the arrival tomorrow of Secretary of State Albright. She pledged at least one visit to the region to help facilitate the final agreement. But already the two sides are a month late in completing the handover of another 5 percent of West Bank territory called for in the 1993 interim Oslo agreement.

The third major general strike since mid-September was reducing commerce in Bangladesh to a trickle. The walkout was called by a right-wing opposition alliance to apply new pressure on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to quit and call an early national election. The strike has resulted in one death, at least 30 injuries, and 62 arrests. The opposition has sponsored almost 50 days of work stoppages since the prime minister took office in 1996. Her term does not expire until 2001.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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