News In Brief

The only sizable suburb of Chechnya's capital still in rebel hands was ordered to fly the Russian flag by midday Monday or face an onslaught by forces surrounding it. Shali, 13 miles southeast of Grozny, had yet to display the banner. But although Russian artillery was pounding other areas on the city's outskirts, the threatened assault on Shali had yet to begin. Meanwhile, the lower house of Russia's parliament OK'd an amnesty for Chechen separatists who surrender by Feb. 1.

A future peace deal with Syria might be "grave and painful" for the estimated 17,000 Israelis living on the strategic Golan Heights, Prime Minister Ehud Barak said - his strongest signal to date that the government is prepared to make far-reaching concessions to achieve an accord. Barak was awaiting a key vote in parliament on his strategy for resumed negotiations, which open in Washington tomorrow. Syria demands full return of the Golan, which Israel has held since 1967. Opinion polls have indicated that Israelis are almost evenly split on whether to give up the plateau.

The symbolic first meeting between the Cabinets of Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic was held as part of the developing peace deal in the North. The North-South Ministerial Council is to meet twice a year to promote Ireland-wide development, although some Protestants view the mechanism as a way to accomplish the Catholic aim of unifying the island.

Most foreign governments sent only junior representatives to the state funeral of Croatian President Franjo Tudjman - a move that analysts said was likely to affect the country's Jan. 3 election to succeed him. Although it is widely hoped that the authoritarian leader's death will open the way to democratic change, political observers said the "demonstration of distaste" over the memorial service was likely to strengthen the voting base of his Croatian Democratic Union and to sway voters who were otherwise undecided.

A power struggle between the head of government and the Speaker of parliament came to a head in Sudan, with President Omar al-Bashir disbanding the legislature and declaring a state of emergency. Extra troops guarded government facilities in Khartoum, although the capital was calm. Al-Bashir acted just before he was scheduled to have many of his powers transferred to Speaker Hassan Turabi. Turabi is widely seen as the ideologue behind al-Bashir's government following a 1989 coup that brought the latter to power.

Campaigning began immediately for a presidential runoff election in Chile Jan. 16 after Sunday's voting left the top two finishers in a virtual tie. Ex-public works minister Ricardo Lagos, a socialist, and US-trained right-wing economist Joaquin Lavin were less than 0.40 percent apart with ballot-counting all but complete.

An oil tanker that may have worn out from decades of use broke apart off the Brittany coast of France, with the risk of 8 million gallons of diesel fuel leaking into the sea. The prow of the 24-year-old Erika sank, and a tugboat was towing the rear section to deeper water where the remaining fuel could be siphoned off if weather conditions improve. In 1978, the Amoco Cadiz spilled 65 million gallons in roughly the same area - still the worst accident of its type.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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