News In Brief

The election success of a new political bloc in Russia's parliament was causing concern because it came at the expense of more established parties - and despite a failure to declare a platform. Opposition leaders and analysts said the Unity group finished less than 1 percentage point behind the Communists as the largest party in the powerful Duma mostly because of its support of popular new Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

An agreement to cooperate in their military and political campaigns against Congo President Laurent Kabila was reached by three rival rebel groups. But they fell short of deciding to merge into a single movement. Differences among the rebels delayed the signing of a peace deal with Kabila's government earlier this year. It finally went into effect in September, but Kabila and the rebels regularly accuse each other of violating it.

Members of parliament rubber-stamped a resolution demanding the return of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez, then joined thousands of others in a street protest calling for US authorities to send him home from Miami. The demonstration, ordered by President Castro, followed a 10-day lapse - apparently to give immigration officials time to interview the boy's father and rule on a request for asylum in the US.

Wounded President Chandrika Kumaratunga was permitted to vote from home in Sri Lanka's elections amid concerns that another attempt on her life might be made. Mrs. Kumara-tunga was hurt last Saturday in an assassination attempt that killed 33 people at her final campaign rally. Voting was reported brisk despite the deaths of four people in scattered violence.

A van rigged to explode was intercepted by police as its driver headed for Madrid from Spain's Basque region. Authorities said the vehicle held more than a half-ton of dynamite and chlorine compound that needed only a detonator to go off, probably amid year-end holiday festivities in the capital. The driver was identified as a former candidate for public office from Herri Batasuna, the political party of the Basque separatist group ETA. Car bombs have been a favorite weapon of ETA guerrillas, who declared an end to their unilateral truce against the Spanish government Dec. 3.

Hopes that a new government would be in place by Christmas were dimmed in Italy as three of Prime Minister-Designate Massimo D'Alema's former coalition partners balked at his terms for a place in the Cabinet. The so-called Clover group was resisting a proposed change in Italy's system of proportional representation in parliament, which has led to the fall of 56 governments since World War II. D'Alema quit his office Saturday but was quickly asked by President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi to try to form a new Cabinet.

A worker exposed to strong radiation in Japan's worst nuclear accident died. Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees injured while violating safety procedures in a uranium-processing plant Sept. 30. He's believed to be the nation's first fatality in the nuclear-power industry.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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