News In Brief

A crucial report is due out today on the surrender of weapons by Northern Ireland's Protestant and Catholic paramilitaries, with analysts suggesting its contents could bring the downfall of the province's home-rule government. The report by the independent disarmament commission is expected to cite some progress in negotiations with the Irish Republican Army - but none so far in the handover of weapons. The North's largest Protestant political group, the Ulster Unionist Party, is expected to use the report as the basis for a vote Feb. 12 on whether to pull out of the government.

Saying, "No I can't, and it isn't up to me," the leader of the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, told BBC-TV he could not guarantee the guerrilla movement would disarm by May 22, the target date of the North's landmark 1998 Good Friday peace accord. Gerry Adams also warned that the IRA might break off negotiations with the disarmament commission if the joint Protestant-Catholic home-rule government collapsed.

The second-in-command of the pro-Israel South Lebanon Army (SLA) died in a bomb explosion near his home a short distance from the border. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by Hizbullah guerrillas operating in the region. The loss of Col. Aki Hashem is seen as a major blow to Israel, which maintains about 4,000 troops - 2,500 of them from the SLA - in its security zone to protect against cross-border raids by Hizbullah. Prime Minister Ehud Barak has pledged to withdraw Israel's 1,500 troops by July. For his plan to work, the SLA will need to remain unified. But its chief reportedly wants to retire to France, and Hashem was believed to be his likely successor.

With President Clinton due in the region Wednesday, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators began 10 days of intensified talks on the outline of a final peace deal. A scheduled meeting Friday between Barak and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat also is expected to provide impetus to the negotiations. Both sides have set a Feb. 13 deadline for the framework deal.

A videotape of atrocities in Congo was bringing warnings of another Rwanda-style genocide. The video, shot Jan. 9 and released by the humanitarian aid organization Christian Blind Mission, shows houses and a school in flames and the mutilated remains of villagers as a result of fighting between Lendu and Hema tribesmen. As many as 7,000 people reportedly died in the strife over the past month - an account backed up by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, which estimates another 150,000 have fled the violence. The area borders Uganda, whose troops are combatants in Congo's civil war. Almost identical violence in Rwanda in 1994 killed an estimated 500,000 people.

Pedestrians were among the 21 people hurt when a bomb exploded aboard a bus bound for Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital. The incident was the second of its type since last Thursday, when a device killed eight and wounded 73 others at a post office. There was no immediate claim of responsibility in either explosion, but suspicion fell on extremists in the Tamil separatist movement.

Almost $1.5 million a year in damages to the survivors of its 1995 nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system was offered by the Aum Shinri Kyo sect. The move was the group's first announcement of how much it would pay in compensation and followed last month's formal apology for the incident, which killed 12 people and made another 5,500 ill.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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