News In Brief

Tomorrow's presidential election will be held as scheduled in Sri Lanka, despite suicide-bomb explosions that disrupted the final campaign rallies for incumbent Chandrika Kumara-tunga and her chief rival, authorities said. At least 33 people died and 180 others - among them the president - were hurt. Mrs. Kumaratunga was hit by shrapnel but was recovering in a hospital, an aide said. Challenger Ranil Wickremesinghe did not attend the rally of his United National Party and was unhurt. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for either attack, but police said they were holding 15 suspects for questioning.

Midnight ceremonies in the tiny enclave of Macau marked the end of the last European colony in Asia. The handover by Portugal to Chinese President Jiang Zemin was to be witnessed by 2,500 special guests from around the world. The occasion was marred, however, by the arrest of an estimated 30 visiting members of the Falun Gong sect, which China has banned. Two political activists from Hong Kong also were barred from entering. They had planned to hand a petition in support of democracy to Jiang.

Communists were expected to remain the largest single faction in Russia's lower house of parliament after national elections that were a warmup to the vote for a new president next year. But with 26 parties competing, analysts said it was possible that, collectively, centrists could win more seats than the Communists. That would have the potential of giving President Boris Yeltsin easier sledding as his term winds down.

A new government should be ready to take over in Italy by Christmas, TV reports said, after Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema quit Saturday. His resignation was expected because of deep splits in his 11-party coalition. But D'Alema's reappointment by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was considered certain, and seven of the parties vowed to back him again. He is the first ex-communist to head a Western government.

The number of casualties from flooding and mudslides in Vene-zuela was rising hourly, and President Hugo Chvez said the disaster would speed up his plan to relocate people from the Caribbean coast to new cities in the sparsely populated interior. More than 500 died and 6,000 others were missing, authorities reported. Many of the victims had built flimsy housing on mountainsides because they couldn't afford to live elsewhere.

The "stupid" clause in the Constitution that guarantees white landowners compensation if their property is seized will be scrapped, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said. He told a convention of his African National Union Patriotic Front "now is the time to take back our land" because the nation's 12.5 million blacks cannot achieve his economic goals with whites controlling almost one-third of productive land. Since 1980, the government has bought out more than 2,000 white farmers under a program critics say is riddled with corruption and mismanagement.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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