News In Brief

In what appears to be related to Moscow's campaign against Chechnya, unidentified attackers blasted four rocket-propelled grenades at the Russian Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon. Authorities reported that six people were wounded and two policemen had died in the explosion. Lebanese militants have protested against the Kremlin's war on their fellow Muslims in the Caucasus region and have raised money for their military defense.

Following an argument between a Muslim street vendor and a Christian shopkeeper, religiously motivated assaults spread through villages in southern Egypt. At least 20 people were reported killed, all Christian, after three days of escalating violence around El-Kusheh, 275 miles south of Cairo. The government sharply criticized those who "manipulated conflicting reactions" to spread violence.

Intense fighting between Christians and Muslims also flared on Indonesia's Spice Islands, leaving 18 dead in the port city of Ambon. About 1,300 people have died in the area's two provinces since religious fighting first erupted a year ago. Since 1950, when Christians - many with Dutch ties - tried to secede, there has been growing religious enmity on the islands. Analysts say this battle bodes poorly for new Indonesian leader Abdurrahman Wahid's hopes to keep Indonesia united.

As people shopped and headed to work, a land mine exploded at a vegetable market in Srinagar, India - part of northern Kashmir. Some 35 people were injured and 13 died in the explosion. No one claimed responsibility. However, the market is reportedly known to be heavily frequented by Indian security forces, fighting Islamic insurgents in the area.

Four days after becoming Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin promptly fired Tatyana Dyachenko, daughter of and image consultant to former President Boris Yeltsin. Critics claimed that Dyachenko and her close friend financial tycoon Boris Berezovsky had inordinate influence over Yeltsin's political decisions.

Indonesia will establish diplomatic ties with newly independent East Timor by the end of February. East Timor's UN chief Sergio Vieira de Mello made the announcement after an investment-prospecting trip by 51 Indonesian government officials and businessmen to the territory. Also, the Komoro airport in the capital of Dili reverted to civilian control. It was just four months ago that pro-Jakarta militias waged a violent campaign in the territory following an independence vote.

The European Union's executive body will start legal proceedings against France today for its continued refusal to comply with EU law and import British beef. In August, the EU Commission lifted a worldwide ban on beef exports from Britain, in place since the 1996 outbreak of so-called "mad cow" disease there. France maintains that the beef could still pose a health threat.

In a show of forgiveness and mercy, a father pardoned his son's killer in Tehran, Iran on Sunday. The noose already around his neck at the foot of a crane, 17-year-old Morteza Moghaddam was spared when Ali Mohebbi publicly forgave him. Koranic law allows a victim's close relative to demand the murderer's death.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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