News In Brief

A delegation of 31 Cubans was standing by to fly to the US and bring Elian Gonzalez home, the Havana government announced. President Fidel Castro said the group would be led by National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcn and the boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, and would include psychologists, medical personnel, his stepmother, half brother, 12 former classmates, and - possibly - even his school desk to re-create "familiar surroundings." Castro said the delegation was prepared to wait months, if necessary, in Washington until the legal impasse over returning Elian to Cuba is broken.

Following the lead of OPEC member countries, Mexico and Norway said they'll increase the amount of crude oil they bring to market, beginning tomorrow. Neither nation belongs to the cartel, but both cut production in tandem with it last year, helping to triple prices on international markets. Mexico, the seventh-largest producer, said it would increase output by 4.6 percent, or 150,000 barrels a day. Most of its exports go to the US. Norway, the world's largest producer, announced a 100,000-barrel-a-day hike. OPEC promised in Vienna Wednesday it will boost production by 1.7 million barrels a day.

A fourth mass grave in southwestern Uganda yielded the remains of 80 more presumed followers of the Movement for the Restoration of the Ten Commandments of God. A local resident told reporters that police had been called to the scene at least twice last year but left after brief investigations. President Yoweri Museveni accused district officials of suppressing reports on suspicious activities involving the doomsday sect.

Hundreds of yards of cracks on one slope and around the base of a volcano in northern Japan signaled that a powerful eruption could come at any moment, experts warned. Mount Usu, on the edge of a hot-springs resort area on the island of Hokkaido, also was being rocked by a third straight day of shallow earthquake activity. More than 10,000 residents of the area were evacuated to shelters and police (above) were forcing vehicular traffic to detour. The volcano last erupted in 1978.

Two bold ambushes by Islamic rebels in what was thought to be Russian-held territory killed at least three special police and wounded a reported 20 others. A search was on for 33 Russians missing after their convoy was attacked near a village in the southern mountains. Sixteen police previously reported missing were found safe. A Kremlin spokesman said more than 250 Russians were trapped in the fighting.

The life of ousted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif may be spared if a court finds him guilty next week of capital crimes, military ruler Pervez Musharraf hinted. Musharraf, who led the October coup that overthrew Sharif, said he'd wait for the trial verdicts on counts of attempted murder, airline hijacking, kidnapping, and terrorism, but added: "I'm not a vindictive man." Sharif is accused of trying to kill Musharraf by refusing landing permission for a plane returning him from an overseas trip. Musharraf also announced Pakistan would privatize its oil, gas, and telecommunications industries.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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