News In Brief

Senior Palestinians denied - but a US official confirmed - a published report that details a proposed new formula for a final peace deal with Israel. The newspaper Haaretz said Palestinian Authority President Arafat proposed the handover of the entire West Bank in trade for blocs of settlements along the border with Israel in which Jews could live. It also would require Israel to allow - but not assist in - the return of millions of Palestinians to homes they once had in the Jewish state. And it would provide for shared administration of Jerusalem, which both sides claim as their capital. If true, the plan would represent a major strategy shift. Palestinians have long sought to rid the West Bank of all Jewish settlements.

New rules imposed by the communist regime in China require companies using the Internet there to register their software by Monday or risk being shut down. Forms that must be filed with the government demand the serial numbers of online software and the names of employees who use it - a step that analysts say could scare away foreigners who have been eager to tap into China's fast-growing electronic commerce. All Internet users must apply to the State Secrecy Bureau before posting previously unreleased government information.

A confrontation over the Constitution clouded the start of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's trial in Pakistan and posed the first big challenge to the nation's military rulers. Six Supreme Court justices refused to swear allegiance to the junta and its provisional charter - a move that effectively stripped them of their posts. Pending before the court at the time was a decision on the legality of the Oct. 12 coup that overthrew Sharif. Meanwhile, his trial in a lower court began with testimony that he denied landing rights for a plane returning Army chief Pervez Musharraf from an overseas trip on the day of the coup.

Financial scandal was threatening to spread to German Chancellor Gerhard Schrder's party, the Social Democrats (SPD). A senior SPD official in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's largest state, was under pressure to resign after he admitted lying about accepting free air travel for a woman companion who is not his wife. And an inquiry was to begin in Lower Saxony, Schrder's home state, whose SPD premier is suspected of using his office to enrich himself before quitting in November. Neither matter is considered to be on the scale of the multimillion-dollar scandal engulfing the opposition Christian Democrats. (Story, page 6.)

At least some of the Burmese rebels who seized a civilian hospital in neighboring Thailand earlier this week were executed after surrendering, published reports said. The reports disputed claims by the Thai forces who freed the hospital and hundreds of hostages that all of the rebels died in a shootout.

A strike by 95,000 electric-utility workers ended in India's most populated state, allowing service to be restored to water-supply systems, hospitals, offices, banks, and other facilities. The workers won a one-year delay in the privatization of Uttar Pradesh's massive state-owned power company. The strike began Jan. 15.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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