News In Brief

Hijackers holding an Indian Airlines jet in Afghanistan raised their demands, asking for $200 million, as well as the release of 35 Kashmiri militants jailed in India, the Foreign Ministry in New Delhi said. The hijackers made the demand in a letter thrown from the plane stranded at Kandahar Airport in southern Afghanistan, where more than 150 passengers were still being held. The crisis began Friday with the hijacking of the aircraft after it left Nepal.

A second wave of fierce gales with winds up to 93 m.p.h. hit France, as the death toll from recent storms in Western Europe rose to 93. Paris officials asked the government to declare the city a disaster area. More than 2,000 people were evacuated in the flooded Vende region of France's western coast. Resorts in the Pyrenees were closed because of potential avalanches. Above, two youths prepare to evacuate a home in Louvigny to escape rising waters of the flooded Orne River.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak was said to be close to resolving the first crisis of his governing coalition in Israel. After more than 30 hours of marathon talks, the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party was expected to receive an extra $25 million for its scandal-ridden network of private schools. The group had threatened to leave the coalition, possibly undermining Israel's peace talks with Syria and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, the Israeli government said it would free 26 Palestinian prisoners under the terms of its latest interim peace deal. The Palestinian Authority has criticized Israel for deciding on the releases without consultation with it and for not setting more prisoners free.

The Security Council should expand the UN peacekeeping force in Sierra Leone, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. He asked the Council to increase the strength of the force from 6,000 to about 10,000 military personnel to compensate for the expected withdrawal of Nigerian-led West African peacekeepers at a time when the cease-fire in Sierra Leone remains fragile.

As members of the banned Falun Gong movement resumed peaceful demonstrations, Chinese police detained at least 20 people in Tiananmen Square. Acts of civil disobedience by the spiritual group had declined over the past month until the sentencing of four of its leaders Sunday. Since outlawing the Falun Gong five months ago, China has detained thousands of its followers.

Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said he's planning to run for an unprecedented third term. Some opposition leaders and constitutional experts said a bid for a third straight term would violate the Constitution and create civil strife.

Turkmenistan's parliament removed term limits on President Saparmurat Niyazov's stay in office. Niyazov has led Turkmenistan since 1985, when it was still part of the Soviet Union. He has resisted moves toward democratic reforms in a nation that is impoverished despite vast oil and gas reserves.

A court in Cairo rejected a lawsuit aimed at preventing a laser show and 2-1/2-hour "electronic opera" from taking place at the Giza plateau to celebrate the new millennium. French composer Jean Michel Jarre's event is expected to attract nearly 60,000 people and numerous TV channels. The suit, filed against the minister of culture, claimed the planned construction work would cause damage to the nearly 5,000-year-old Pyramids.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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