News In Brief

Thousands of rebel defenders were trying to escape Chechnya's capital under heavy attack by Russian air and ground forces, reports said. But in Moscow, a Kremlin spokesman said fierce fighting continued in the battered city, and there were no signs its estimated 15,000 to 40,000 remaining civilian residents had come out of hiding. Some of the escaping rebels were reported regrouping in a Grozny suburb and heading for strategic bases in Chechnya's southern mountains.

The Irish Republican Army remains committed to peace and its guns continue to be silent, a statement delivered to a Dublin radio station said. It came as all sides awaited the public release of a report on the surrender of weapons by the North's independent disarmament commission. The British and Irish Republic governments were meeting in private to study the still-secret document.

"We have no interest in escalation," Prime Minister Ehud Barak said, despite mounting demands that he retaliate for Israel's latest losses in its south Lebanon protection zone. Three more soldiers were killed there Monday by Hizbullah guerrillas, following the assassination of the No. 2 commander of Israel's proxy South Lebanon Army. Barak visited troops along the tense border, but said he wouldn't lose sight of his main goal: peace with Syria and Lebanon. Hizbullah is trained and funded by Iran, but Syria is believed to serve as the conduit for its weapons shipments. One of Barak's campaign pledges in last year's election was to restore quiet to the border.

Despite earning the ire of its European neighbors, Austria was nearing completion of negotiations that would bring ultrarightist leader Joerg Haider and his Freedom Party into a new coalition government. Senior officials and ordinary Austrians alike reacted angrily to a threat by the European Union to isolate the country politically if Haider joined the government. He has been a controversial figure since expressing admiration a decade ago for some Nazi policies during World War II.

A confrontation was shaping up between Indonesia's president and the former armed forces chief he vowed to dismiss from a key Cabinet post. Gen. Wiranto told reporters he would not step down as minister of political and security affairs - at least until after President Abdurrahman Wahid returns from an overseas tour Feb. 13. An official report earlier this week accused Wiranto of crimes against humanity last year in the former province of East Timor. Tensions over the issue have stirred concern of a possible coup, although the capital, Jakarta, was calm.

Chartered buses brought hundreds of women to voter-registration centers across Kuwait, but elections officials turned them away, offering only "unofficial" sheets of paper on which they could sign their names. The move was the latest in a campaign to win political rights for females in the oil-rich state, whose National Assembly twice rejected such participation last fall. Feb. 1 was the first day new voters could register for the next parliamentary election.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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