News In Brief

Advanced air-defense missiles that could - without warning - knock out most of Taiwan's military bases are about to be deployed at new launch sites on China's southeast coast, The Washington Times reported. Citing US defense sources, the newspaper said the missiles - detected by spy satellite - also are capable of striking Taiwanese warplanes long before they reach the demarcation line between the two countries, which runs through the Taiwan Strait. The disclosure comes as National Security Adviser Samuel Berger flies to Beijing for discussions with Chinese leaders that are certain to include Taiwan. China repeatedly threatened military action against Taiwan prior to the latter's March 18 presidential election.

The lone holdout, Iran, was being pressured by OPEC's other members to accept a crude-oil production increase of up to 1.7 million barrels a day. The cartel, meeting in Vienna, failed to agree on a new target Monday, and yesterday's session was hours late in convening as delegates tried privately to forge a consensus that could provide some price relief to importing nations such as the US. Iran reportedly favors raising production by no more than 1.2 million barrels a day, which analysts said would do little to ease prices. Key non-OPEC producers Mexico and Norway say they'll decide on adjusting their output once the cartel votes.

Another mass grave was discovered beneath the home of a doomsday sect leader in Rugazi, Uganda, the second in two days and the third overall. Investigators said the remains of at least 16 people were found. The owner is believed to have died with hundreds of others in the March 17 fire at the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God compound at nearby Kanungu. On Monday, 74 victims were found in the first grave at Rugazi.

The influential eldest son of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein won all but 0.1 percent of the votes in his first campaign for political office. Udai Hussein was seeking to represent a district of Baghdad in the National Assembly. Analysts said the victory positions him for the speakership of the rubber-stamp body - a post considered roughly equal to prime minister - although the current speaker also reportedly won his race for reelection.

A cut in pensions for persons in the private sector was overwhelmingly OK'd by the powerful lower house of Japan's parliament. The measure passed the upper house last week. It seeks to avert a crisis in one of the world's most rapidly aging societies by reducing annual cost-of-living increases on benefits by 5 percent between now and 2025 and by raising the eligibility age from 60 to 65. As in the US, Japanese experts worry that a shrinking number of younger workers will be unable to support the pensions and health bills of retirees.

Contaminated water at the rate of 4.5 tons a day was leaking from the same Romanian gold mine where a spill occurred March 10. Authorities said sloppy construction work coupled with heavy rain and melting snow caused the new spill from an impoundment dam that earlier released 20,000 tons of pollutants into the Tisza River. Europe's worst environmental disaster since the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident was caused by a toxic spill into the Tisza at another Romanian gold mine in January.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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