News In Brief

Hijackers threatening to kill passengers on an Indian Airlines jet suspended a deadline for meeting their demands as Indian officials arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to begin negotiations. Meanwhile, Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil said his government was losing patience and would "use force to make the plane leave" if the negotiators failed to reach an accord. The hijackers have demanded that several Kashmiri militants and a Pakistani-born Kashmiri activist be released from Indian prisons.

Meanwhile, separatist guerrillas in Kashmir stormed the headquarters of an anti-terrorist police unit in the state capital, Srinagar. At least three officers were killed and seven others wounded, Indian officials said. Kashmir is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

The ultra-Orthodox Jewish Shas Party threatened to quit the governing coalition of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak - a move that would leave him without a majority in parliament. Shas has been fighting for government support in rescuing an education system that gives the party grass-roots political support among lower-class Sephardic Jews with origins in Arab states. Sources close to Barak said he hoped to resolve the dispute during a 24-hour reprieve granted by Eli Yishai, the Shas Party chairman.

Alfonso Portillo won easily in Guatemala's first peacetime presidential elections in nearly 40 years. With 98 percent of the votes counted, Portillo, the candidate of the right-wing Guatemalan Republican Front, had 68 percent of the total, compared with 32 percent for Oscar Berger, candidate of the ruling National Advancement Party. Berger, who had resigned as mayor of Guatemala City to run for the presidency, said he would retire from politics.

The death toll from fierce gales that lashed Europe over the weekend rose to 51 - and officials said more bad weather was expected. France bore the brunt of the storm, which roared in from the Atlantic early Sunday, stranding tens of thousands of travelers returning from their holidays.

The French Atlantic coast is facing an ecological catastrophe from oil left by a tanker that sank two weeks ago off Brittany, Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said. A Maltese-registered tanker, chartered by the Franco-Belgian oil group TotalFina, lost 3 million gallons of refined heavy oil when it broke apart and sank Dec. 12. The oil, a threat to animal life and fishing industries, reportedly affects some 250 miles of coastline.

A mayor in Okinawa approved a plan to relocate a major US military base from another part of the Japanese island to his city - but said it could only remain for 15 years. Nago Mayor Tateo Kishimoto agreed to accept transfer of the unpopular airfield from the city of Futenma. There are some 3,700 personnel and 71 aircraft at the base, one of only two US Marine airfields outside the US.

Christian-Muslim violence broke out again on the east Indonesian island of Ambon, leaving at least 39 people dead. The violence erupted after a bus driven by a Christian struck a Muslim pedestrian, security officials said. Scores of shops, as well as Silo Church, the largest in the port city, were burned down. According to official statistics, about 750 people have been killed this year in a series of sectarian clashes in the Moluccas Islands, formerly known as the Spice Islands.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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