News In Brief

New leafleting by Russian helicopters temporarily replaced bombing of Chechnya's capital as field commanders tried again to persuade residents to leave via a "safety corridor." A few hundred people took the opportunity to flee Grozny, but officials said "we know" Islamic militants were preventing others from going. An ultimatum to flee by Saturday or become targets of an all-out assault had drawn intense international criticism. Meanwhile, TV reports said a news blackout was imposed on Grozny.

Hundreds of Jewish settlers helped to dedicate new housing on the Golan Heights , despite the scheduled resumption Wednesday of peace negotiations between Israel and Syria. But while leaders of both government said they thought an accord could be reached in "a few months," Israel's finance minister indicated that US taxpayers would be asked to pay for a pullout of settlers and military facilities from the strategic plateau. Estimates put the likely cost at $18 billion. Syria has said a complete pullout from the Golan would be its price for a peace deal.

Church bells are to toll for 10 minutes across Croatia today in memory of President Franjo Tudjman, whose funeral is scheduled for the capital, Zagreb. But even as tens of thousands of Croats filed past his casket to pay their respects over the weekend, other governments were slow to announce who'd represent them at the ceremonies for the authoritarian head of state. Tudjman ruled virtually alone after leading the former Yugoslav republic to independence in 1995.

High-level discussions opening today in Havana between US and Cuban government officials on the issue of migration are expected to be dominated by the case of Elian Gonzalez. The talks are held every two years to monitor the joint accord signed in 1994 after at least 30,000 Cubans tried to make the 90-mile trip to Florida in leaky boats and rafts. Cuba threatened to call off the latest round because of the Gonzalez case. Lawyers representing relatives of the boy in Miami filed a petition Friday seeking political asylum for him in the US.

Ratcheting up tensions over the issue of Quebec separatism, the province's government plans to file legislation tomorrow reaffirming the "right to self-determination." The move is in retaliation for Friday's introduction of a measure in Canada's Parliament by Prime Minister Jean Chrtien that seeks to enshrine in law a 1998 Supreme Court ruling. That ruling held that any referendum on secession would have to be won by a clear majority. Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, who has been feuding with Chrtien for weeks, called the bill "indefensible" because passage would violate the "universal democratic rule of 50 percent plus one vote."

In a new effort at cleaning up its image, the International Olympic Committee banned visits by senior members to cities bidding to serve as hosts of the games. The ban came despite complaints by some members that it implies they can't be trusted. It was one of 50 reforms OK'd in Lausanne, Switzerland, following a bribery scandal that ranks as the organization's worst. But in Australia, a developing scandal over the marketing of tickets for the 2000 Summer Games was increasing pressure on Sydney's Olympic Organizing Committee chairman to resign.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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