News In Brief

A new government could be in place as soon as today in Japan, whose ruling party was trying to avoid a political vacuum in the aftermath of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's illness. The Cabinet resigned en masse, and the Liberal Democratic Party was expected to choose its secretary-general, Yoshiro Mori, as Obuchi's successor. Mori, a conservative, is likely to reappoint each of Obuchi's ministers and to find himself under considerable pressure to continue his initiatives, analysts said.

The South Lebanon Army (SLA) will not yield control of the area it patrols without assurances by the Beirut government that it won't be punished for cooperating with Israel, its leader said. Gen. Antoine Lahad also demanded that his 2,600 men be absorbed into the Lebanese Army. Lahad vowed the SLA "will fight for our land" if the concessions are not forthcoming. Israel is pledged to pull its own troops out of the region between now and July, leaving the SLA with an uncertain future.

The UN's human rights chief called for a special independent investigation of atrocities in the fighting over Chechnya. Mary Robinson said Russian officials had barred her from areas of the breakaway region she wanted to see but that civilians there had told her "harrowing accounts" of rape, looting, intimidation, "summary executions," and "disproportionate use of force." There also was evidence of kidnapping and execution of civilians by rebel forces in Chechnya, she said. The Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, is scheduled to vote later this week on suspending Russia for abuses in Chechnya.

A close vote is expected tonight in Turkey's parliament on amending the Constitution to allow President Suleyman Demirel to seek reelection. Analysts said the secret ballot also could bring the collapse of Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit's coalition government, some of whose members are known to want an early end to Demirel's long career atop Turkish politics. His term expires next month. Ecevit has said Demirel brings badly needed stability to a nation struggling to accomplish economic reforms. Last week, lawmakers OK'd continued debate on the controversial measure, but by far fewer votes than will be necessary to rewrite the Constitution.

Livestock markets across South Korea were ordered closed by health authorities and farmers were slaughtering hundreds of head of cattle to try to contain the spread of foot-and-mouth disease. The malady, not transferrable to humans, was the first confirmed case in Asia since it almost wiped Taiwan's hog herd in 1997. The disease also was discovered in 10 cows in Japan March 25. Neighboring states were banning meat imports from both countries.

"Everything is down, except for concrete buildings," an international aid official in Madagascar reported after a cyclone with 138-m.p.h. winds lashed a major section of the African island nation. The storm dumped enough rain to soak an area not yet dried out from a mid-February cyclone and a later tropical storm. It was headed for Mozambique on the African mainland, where 696 people died in the earlier cyclone and related flooding.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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