News In Brief

A historic face-to-face meeting between the presidents of the two Koreas was announced for June 12-14. The talks would be the biggest diplomatic breakthrough between the rivals since their peninsula was divided in 1945; technically they're still at war. Analysts questioned the timing of the surprise announcement, which came three days before critical parliamentary elections in the South. In 1991, the two sides signed a "basic agreement" on improving relations, but it has never been implemented.

With bitter rhetoric from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat ringing in his ears, Israel's prime minister headed to Washington for his hastily arranged meeting today with President Clinton. Arafat called Ehud Barak "far worse" than hard-line predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu and "a leader of extremists" with whom the Israeli people "had grown bored." He said Barak had turned the path to peace into a trail of broken promises. Barak and Clinton were to try to find a way to bring new momentum to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. But the prime minister said he did not expect peace talks with Syria would resume soon.

A runoff election for president appeared likely in Peru after late returns gave incumbent Alberto Fujimori a first-round lead - but not enough for outright victory over challenger Alejandro Toledo. Fujimori had 48 percent of the votes, to 41.6 for Toledo. Analysts said Toledo committed a major tactical error in claiming victory based on early exit polls and then calling his supporters to the streets of Lima, where they clashed with riot police. Six people were hurt. The runoff, if necessary, will be held next month or in early June. Independent monitors reported only scattered irregularities in Sunday's voting.

The narrow victory of Greece's Socialist PASOK movement in national elections was seen as a "wake-up call" from voters who want faster progress in catching up with more progressive European countries. With official returns almost complete, PASOK and Prime Minister Costas Simitis were defeating the challenge of the conservative New Democracy Party by a margin of only about 50,000 votes.

There was no evidence of widespread vote-rigging in Georgia, elections officials said, as President Eduard Shevardnadze headed for a new five-year term by a resounding margin. He had 80 percent of the vote over ex-Communist Party leader Dzhumber Patiashvili, who conceded defeat but claimed "gross violations" of election rules. A closer outcome had been expected, since Shevardnadze's first term brought little improvement in living standards.

Hopes for enlisting the help of Sri Lanka's most influential Buddhist monks in ending 17 years of civil war took a major hit when they refused to attend a meeting to consider a proposed peace plan. The monks said President Chandrika Kumaratunga's invitation arrived too late. But sources familiar with the matter said the monks believe her plan offers too many concessions to Tamil rebels fighting for an independent homeland, whom they'd rather see defeated on the battlefield.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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