News In Brief

With only a lukewarm endorsement by parliament of resumed Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, Prime Minister Barak left Jerusalem promising not to endanger his nation's security. He will need an absolute majority of 61 of the 120 members of the Knesset to OK an Israeli pullback from the strategic Golan Heights, which he has hinted he'll agree to in the talks beginning today in Washington. But the symbolic vote in favor of resuming the negotiations after a 3-1/2-year hiatus was only 47 to 31, with 24 abstentions.

The "no" forces appeared to have little hope of winning today's referendum in Venezuela on the newly rewritten Constitution. Opinion polls were showing support for the new charter commissioned by controversial President Hugo Chvez at 67 percent.

The US Embassy was shrugging off criticism that the Clinton administration hadn't sent a higher-ranking representative to the formal handover of the Panama Canal. The US delegation was led by former President Carter, who signed the 1977 treaties relinquishing control of the waterway at the end of this year. But it stood in sharp contrast to the British representatives - Prince Charles and Prime Minister Blair - who attended the 1997 transfer of Hong Kong to China. At least six heads of state were due to observe the canal-transfer ceremonies.

In the stiffest punishment yet imposed by the UN war-crimes tribunal on Bosnia, a former Serb prison-camp guard was sentenced to 40 years behind bars for murdering and torturing Muslims in 1992. Earlier, the tribunal found Goran Jelisic guilty on 31 counts of crimes against humanity. The court called his actions "repugnant, bestial, and sadistic."

The ousted prime minister of Romania was refusing to leave office after being fired by President Emil Constantinescu, setting up a potential constitutional crisis. Opposition leaders were considering impeachment proceedings against the president, who dismissed Radu Vasile on grounds that he was unable to carry out his duties. He acted after 12 of his 17 Cabinet ministers quit in protest at the slow pace of Vasile's economic-reform program.

A former Army chief, on the run because he's suspected of ordering the assassination of Paraguay's vice president, vowed from hiding to use "all means" to oppose the "unconstitutional" Asuncion government. Gen. Lino Oviedo refused to say whether he has been in contact with elements of the military who remain loyal to him. He disappeared last week from neighboring Argentina, whose new president pledged to revoke his political asylum. Meanwhile, the family of the late Luis Maria Argana offered a $100,000 reward for Oviedo's capture. Argana's death in March sparked violent street protests that forced Oviedo to escape the country.

Residents were fleeing from the path of cyclone John, whose Category 5 winds are expected to lash northwestern Australia today. In Perth, state emergency officials said they were preparing for a "worst-case scenario" that included the likelihood of heavy coastal flooding from the 180 m.p.h. storm.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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