News In Brief

Military planes dropped leaflets on Chechnya's capital, giving residents an ultimatum: leave by Saturday or "be annihilated." The leaflets show an escape corridor out of Grozny and guarantee "accommodation" and medical treatment to those who use it by the deadline. About 50,000 civilians remain in the city, despite the pounding of Russian jets and artillery to flush out Islamic rebels. If the rebels don't surrender by Dec. 30, a Russian official said "other types and systems" of weapons would be used against them.

Secretary of State Albright left Washington on her Middle East peace quest just as Palestinian negotiators broke off talks with Israel, saying they wouldn't return until the latter stopped expanding settlements on the West Bank. Israel issued hundreds of new housing permits Sunday, but Albright was expected to repeat concerns that "settlement activity complicates the environment" for a permanent peace. The two sides are due to produce the outlines of a final accord by February but currently are deadlocked over Israeli withdrawal from another 5 percent of West Bank land.

Five soldiers accused of shooting independence demonstrators in Aceh province were arrested by Indonesia's military, which also promised residents of the restive region more self-government and more revenue-sharing from its sale of oil and natural gas. Eleven people were wounded when soldiers fired into a crowd celebrating the anniversary of the province's separatist movement Saturday.

Protest rallies will be staged outside the US diplomatic mission in Havana every day until a small Cuban boy rescued at sea is returned to his father, President Castro said. After a noisy rally of about 2,000 Communist Youth Movement members outside the mission, Castro demanded that Elian Gonzalez be sent home within 72 hours and vowed a "battle for world opinion" to compel his return. His mother and stepfather died Nov. 22 aboard a boat full of refugees trying to reach Florida. Relatives in Miami insist he should remain with them.

Almost 54,000 accounts "probably or possibly" held by Holocaust victims were identified by an international panel investigating Swiss banks. In its final report, however, the committee said it found no evidence that the banks had conspired to steal the assets in dormant accounts. Jewish groups contend that the unclaimed assets belonging to Holocaust survivors or their heirs now may be worth billions of dollars.

Recently improved relations "will become tense" again if Greece vetoes Turkey's bid to be recognized formally as a candidate for membership in the European Union, President Suleyman Demirel was quoted as saying. The application is expected to come up at the EU's summit Friday and Saturday in Helsinki, Finland. Greek officials say they have not yet decided whether to cast a veto. Decades of bad relations eased last summer when each country came to the aid of the other after devastating earthquakes.

More than 1 million people now are homeless because of the worst flooding in Vietnam this century, reports said. Another six feet of rain fell on parts of the provinces of Quang Nam and Quang Ngai last week, washing away rice seedlings planted after last month's flooding. At least 686 deaths are blamed on the weather.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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