News In Brief

Peace discussions between Syria and Israel, scheduled to resume tomorrow, were postponed indefinitely, the latter's government said. No reason for the move was offered by Prime Minister Barak's office. But the announcement followed hints by the Syrians that they wanted a delay because of Israeli unwillingness to commit to a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights - Syria's main demand in exchange for a peace deal.

The postponement also followed - but was not necessarily related to - a pipe bomb explosion in the Israeli coastal city of Hadera that wounded 21 people. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion fell on the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad. Last week, Barak said Israel was bracing for new attempts by Palestinian militants to disrupt peace talks. He warned at the time that a major terrorist attack would cause him to break off negotiations. But the Hadera incident was not at first believed severe enough to trigger such a move.

Do not try to overthrow me, Indonesia's new president warned senior military commanders. Without offering specifics, Abdurrahim Wahid said he'd take "harsh action" if a coup was attempted. Wahid and the military have been at odds over how to deal with escalating sectarian violence in the Molucca islands and the separatist movement in Aceh province. Meanwhile, at least eight Christian churches on the island of Lombok were burned by Islamic rioters. In a clash with police trying to halt the arson attacks, 10 people were hurt by bullets or rocks.

Saying, "We have triumphed, but it is a defeat for no one," Socialist Ricardo Lagos quickly went to work as president-elect of Chile. Lagos edged right-wing challenger Joaquin Lavn by 51 percent to 48 percent of the vote in Sunday's runoff to succeed retiring Eduardo Frei. He'll be Chile's first leftist leader since Salvador Allende was ousted in a 1973 coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Lagos discussed strategy with Frei after his victory speech was interrupted by supporters demanding that his government put Pinochet on trial for murder and other alleged crimes.

A special gathering of African leaders to discuss peace in Congo was being called "a complete waste of time" because self-proclaimed President Laurent Kabila failed to attend. The meeting was held in Maputo, Mozambique. It also was not clear whether Kabila would attend another special conference between African leaders and the UN Security Council in New York before next Monday.

An X-ray check of a letter hand-delivered to Sri Lanka's president revealed it contained a powerful explosive. The bomb was defused by police. The new attempt on Chandrika Kumara-tunga's life came just under a month after she was partially blinded in a suicide-bomb attack. Her mother, President Sirimavo Bandaranike, escaped injury in a similar attack Jan. 5.

Prospects for the first female president in Finnish history grew stronger after the first round of balloting put Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen well ahead of her leading challenger. But because neither she nor ex-Prime Minister Esko Aho won the required majority of the votes, they'll face each other again in a Feb. 6 runoff. Aho took 34 percent of the ballots, final tabulations showed.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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