News In Brief
Prime Minister Ehud Barak was returning to Israel amid a flurry of new opposition to his peace negotiations with Syria. Despite his promise to submit any proposed deal to a national referendum, an estimated 100,000 Israelis rallied in the rain in Tel Aviv Monday night against the return of the Golan Heights - the key Syrian demand for a treaty. And two prominent Cabinet ministers, Natan Sharansky (interior) and Yitzhak Levy (housing) said they'd quit the government if Barak bowed to Syria's conditions for peace.
Government control over religion in China will be strengthened until there is an "adaptation to socialism," a conference in Beijing was told. The conference comes on the heels of last week's flight into exile of an important Tibetan Buddhist lama, the recent branding of 10 Christian sects as illegal "cults," the "ordaining" by the Beijing government of five handpicked Roman Catholic bishops - a snub to the Vatican - and an all-out effort to smash the Falun Gong movement. The government also has moved to quash Muslim militancy in western China. An official told the conference that China will not allow "hostile overseas forces" to use religion "to split the nation."
The assassination of a Protestant paramilitary chief in Northern Ireland brought appeals for calm from new First Minister David Trimble. Trimble, who heads the Protestant-Catholic coalition government, said the family of Richard Jameson wanted no retaliation for his murder near Portadown. Jameson was a commander of the outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). There were no immediate claims of responsibility for the killing, but suspicion fell on the rival Loyalist Volunteer Force, another militant Protestant group, with which the UVF has been feuding for weeks.
The president of Ecuador's Central Bank quit rather be fired for his opposition to a controversial plan that will replace the sucre with the US dollar. But the remaining directors unanimously OK'd President Jamil Mahuad's move to try to end economic chaos, and the International Monetary Fund pledged to help implement the "dollarization" plan. While many Ecuadorans say they dislike it, a new opinion poll showed Mahuad's personal popularity rose from only 9 percent to 22 percent after he announced the conversion. Above, a currency trader in Quito, the capital, buys sucres from a customer wanting US dollars.
Pensions will increase in Russia by 20 percent, effective Feb. 1, Acting President Vladimir Putin said. The jump is 8 percent more than was promised last October, before Boris Yeltsin stepped down and named Putin to replace him. The increase was attributed to higher-than-expected tax collections and was seen as a move by Putin to appeal for votes in the March 26 presidential election. He is expected to win, but analysts say a series of reversals in Russia's assault on Chechnya have the potential to cut into his vote total.
CORRECTION: An item in this space Jan. 7 incorrectly identified the ousted president of Ivory Coast. Henri Konan Bedi was overthrown Christmas Eve and sought refuge in Togo.
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