News In Brief

Only US intervention can cause peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians to resume, senior aides to Yasser Arafat said. The talks were suspended Sunday after Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Barak late last week couldn't resolve a dispute over which parcels of West Bank land would be transferred to Palestinian control. The Palestinians said three questions were submitted to Israel's negotiators for "clarification" and the talks would remain stalled until answers were received. The suspension came amid what were to be 10 days of "marathon" discussions to produce the outline of a final peace deal by Feb. 13.

A terrorist bomb blamed on an Irish Republican Army splinter group damaged a hotel where Protestant and Catholic leaders were to hold a meeting on rural development in Northern Ireland. No one was hurt, but the incident brought an appeal by Nobel Peace Prize-winning Catholic leader John Hume to the IRA to surrender its cache of explosives.

Convoys of ammunition trucks roared into Chechnya to support the Russian Army's new focus: Islamic rebel bases in the mountainous south. Russia announced the fall of Grozny, the capital, Sunday and said its troops were attacking rebel defenders trying to reach the mountains. But Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov said Grozny had merely been "ceded" and would be retaken later.

Negotiations between police and the hijackers of an Afghan commercial jet were at a "very critical stage" at an airport near London. Authorities said the hijackers were seeking the release of an opposition leader who has been held prisoner by Afghan-istan's Taliban movement since 1997. But a Taliban source said no demands were negotiable. The drama appeared likely to end in Britain, whose policy forbids hijacked planes from taking off again.

Having forged closer political and economic ties with Europe, Indonesia's president turned his attention to a discredited Cabinet aide who is resisting pressure to quit. Abdurrahman Wahid won a pledge from the European Union to upgrade cooperation to a level "more consistent with Indonesia's needs." Wahid also said he'd pardon General Wiranto, now minister for political and security affairs, if Wiranto was found guilty of atrocities in East Timor.

Voting was off to a brisk start in Croatia, where two moderates with pro-Western views were seeking the presidency. Stipe Mesic, a centrist, and Social Liberal Party president Drazen Budisa were the top finishers in the first round of balloting Jan. 24. Both have pledged to improve Croatia's human rights record and seek membership in NATO and the European Union.

The first woman president of Finland celebrated her election victory by pledging "to do everything so that ... you'll be saying, 'We knew this was going to be worth it.' " Foreign Minister Tarja Halonen edged ex-Prime Minister Esko Aho in Sunday's runoff despite her controversial background. She quit Finland's dominant Lutheran Church and lives with a man whom she doesn't plan to marry.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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