News In Brief
Whites seeking to reclaim their British citizenship swamped that country's High Commission offices in Zimbabwe after President Robert Mugabe refused to condemn the latest violence blamed on his black allies. Over the weekend, a white farmer and two opposition party members were murdered and five other whites were badly beaten as they tried to come to the farmer's aid. Mugabe also said he'd defy a court order that police must evict squatters who've seized about 1,000 white-owned farms. Eighty farm families said they wouldn't return to their fields until they had assurances their safety would be protected. Britain's Foreign Office said last month it was prepared to accept up to 20,000 white Zimbabweans if conditions there worsened.
Ignoring noisy human rights protesters, Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair for talks aimed at improving his country's international image. Blair was expected to raise British concerns about the conduct of the war in Chechnya, but has said he doesn't favor isolating Russia over the issue. For his part, Putin, an ex-spy who never had held elective office before, was certain to stress his goal of integrating Russia into the global economy.
By a landslide margin, voters in Ukraine gave President Leonid Kuchma strong new power over parliament, despite indications that many of them didn't understand the wording of Sunday's national referendum. Support for each of four questions on the ballot was in the 80 percent range, with vote-counting nearing completion. Kuchma exulted in his victory, although opposition leaders claimed the vote was rigged and an independent watchdog group reported instances of voters being pressured by government officials. The four questions still must be approved by lawmakers, whom Kuchma accuses of blocking his reform agenda.
Concerns grew that the port of Djibouti could collapse if international relief efforts grow to the volume necessary to alleviate mass starvation in the Horn of Africa. Up to 95 percent of the food aid already flowing into the region passes through Djibouti because of the lack of adequate infrastructure in neighboring Eritrea and Ethiopia. World Food Program officials estimated 30,000 tons of aid a month is likely to go unloaded. In all, 15.7 million people in 10 countries in the region are rated at risk because of a two-year drought.
Amid speculation that he was considering resignation, Italy's prime minister asked for an appointment to see President Carlo Azegli Ciampi. Massimo D'Alema was holding a strategy meeting with his left-of-center coalition partners after an apparent sweeping victory in Sunday's regional elections by rightist opponents. As an alternative to quitting, he could seek a vote of confidence in parliament. The nation's first ex-communist head of government had predicted a decisive victory for his forces. Italy must hold a national election by next April, but only Ciampi can call one earlier.
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