News In Brief
In a ringing endorsement of Palestinian statehood, visiting Pope John Paul II repeatedly offered gestures that the Vatican normally accords only to other recognized governments. The pontiff departed from his stated intention to stick to religious themes to tell a welcoming crowd in Bethlehem: "Your torment ... has gone on too long." He also kissed a pot of Palestinian soil, and, before arriving, sent a telegram of good wishes to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, a form of recognition normally reserved for other chiefs of state.
The possibility of softening their call for independence loomed as senior members of Taiwan's victorious Democratic Progressive Party began a review of its platform. Any change, which could be seen as a concession to the government of mainland China, would have to be approved at a general meeting of party members, which has yet to be scheduled.
On the last day that opinion polls could be published before Russia's election, Acting President Vladimir Putin increased his lead over rivals by enough to suggest a first-round victory. Putin was on a campaign tour - despite earlier vowing he wouldn't - as one survey showed his popularity rose to 57 percent from 50 percent the week before. Still, elections commission officials said, prospects for an April 16 runoff with Sunday's likely second-place finisher Gennady Zyuganov, the Communist Party leader, are "fairly high."
A midnight assassination attempt seriously wounded the president of Nagorno-Karabakh, his chauffeur, and a bodyguard. Arkady Gukasyan was en route home in the region of formerly Soviet Azerbaijan when gunmen attacked their car. A political rival and more than a dozen others were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack. Nominally, the region is a state of Azerbaijan, but it is populated mostly by Armenians. More than 35,000 people died in six years of civil war that began in 1988.
A week of intense negotiations failed to produce agreement on how Cambodia and the UN should convene a genocide tribunal against senior Khmer Rouge leaders. Sources close to the talks said the sticking point remains the UN's demand for a foreign prosecutor who'd have independent authority to indict; Cambodia has insisted on co-prosecutors who must agree on all charges. Almost 1 in every 4 Cambodians died at Khmer Rouge hands during the 1970s.
With rival candidates having withdrawn, the International Monetary Fund is expected to appoint Germany's Horst Khler as its new managing director today. Khler's path to the job became clear after the IMF's acting chief Stanley Fischer, a naturalized American, dropped out of contention late last week. Japan's candidate withdrew earlier.
A new surge of flood-stage water is expected to crest in southern Mozambique today, threatening to inundate as many as 10,000 people who returned to their homes after last month's ordeal. Those near the Limpopo River were warned to move to the highest possible ground. UN officials said they also were worried because most relief planes supplied by foreign countries are due to be withdrawn next month, before the need for them is over.
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