News In Brief

The deposed prime minister of Pakistan was cleared of kidnapping and attempted murder by a special antiterrorism court. But Nawaz Sharif's political career appeared over as a judge sentenced him to life in prison for refusing to allow a plane carrying Army chief Pervez Musharraf permission to land in Pakistan last October. He could have been executed for the offense. Six codefendants were found innocent of all charges. Sharif's attorneys vowed to appeal the verdict.

The new prime minister of Japan came under immediate pressure to call a national election, amid a growing perception that he's only a stand-in until the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) can settle on a stronger candidate. Yoshiro Mori was secretary-general of the LDP when he was chosen as the successor to hospitalized Keizo Obuchi. He is scorned by critics as having little background in foreign policy or economics. A vote for a new parliament must be held by October, but analysts said Mori might not be able to resist calls to schedule it before Japan serves as host of the annual Group of Eight meeting in July.

Another Russian military convoy was ambushed by Islamic rebels in Chechnya, the second such incident in eight days. Reports said one Interior Ministry soldier died in the attack; eight others were hurt. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that, to stave off suspension from the Council of Europe, the Kremlin offered to allow three human rights monitors to travel in Chechnya. In its 51 years, the democracy watchdog has not disciplined a member in that manner. But it was considering a May 31 deadline for Russia to agree to a truce in Chechnya or face a vote on suspension.

If late opinion polls are accurate, a runoff election for president appeared possible in Peru, where controversial incumbent Alberto Fujimori and his closest rival, World Bank consultant Alejandro Toledo, were making their final appeals to voters before Sunday's balloting. Toledo was in a statistical tie with Fujimori in one survey. A runoff would be held in June unless one candidate wins a simple majority Sunday.

Attention shifted to who will succeed Turkish President Suleyman Demirel after parliament rejected controversial legislation that would have allowed him to seek a new term. The defeat was seen as a major blow to Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who staked his reputation on passage, insisting that Turkey needed the political stability that Demirel provides. The reelection measure also had the support of Turkey's military. Demirel's term ends May 16.

Ninety children have starved to death in one town in southern Ethiopia alone, and disaster for at least 4 million other people in the region is no more than a month away unless massive food aid arrives in time, emergency officials said. They blamed a three-year drought, coupled with Ethiopia's border war with Eritrea, for withering crops and keeping relief supplies from reaching the hungry.

Habib Bourguiba, who died in Tunis, was known as the "father of Tunisia" after leading it to independence from France in 1956. He held the title "president for life," steering the North African nation from its rigid Islamic traditions and onto a course of Western-style modernization. He was ousted in a nonviolent coup by Prime Minister (now President) Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali in 1987.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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