In a bid to nudge the latest negotiations onto a friendlier footing, a senior Israeli official said a Palestinian state is already a fact and only its limitations will be defined in a final peace treaty. The talks, at Eilat, a Red Sea resort, got off to a difficult start after reports that the Israeli government had authorized construction of 174 more houses just outside Jerusalem in the West Bank. The two sides are working toward a Sept. 13 deadline for a final accord. They are to be joined today by special US envoy Dennis Ross, acting as mediator for the first time.
One of the 13 defendants in Iran's high-profile Jewish espionage trial has confessed to being a trained Israeli agent, judiciary sources said. They said shopkeeper Hamid Tefileen admitted he passed classified information to the Mossad, Israel's intelligence service, and has asked to be pardoned. But an attorney for the defendants said none of their actions involved classified material and did not meet the legal standard for espionage. The trial has further strained Iran's relations with the West, along with attempts by hard-line fundamentalists to crack down on President Mohamad Khatami's reform agenda.
Tamil rebel forces closed to within 15 miles of Sri Lanka's second-largest city, Jaffna, in their bid to recapture it after five years of government control. Reports said the advance was especially worrying to many of the city's half-million people who, although they're fellow Tamils, have sided with the government because it has improved their living conditions. Anyone who might want to leave can do so only by air or boat, since the rebels control the land route to the south. Food prices in Jaffna have as much as doubled in the past seven days.
Saying he's "not at all sad," controversial Austrian politician Jrg Haider stepped down as leader of the ultrarightist Freedom Party. Although he held no position in the national government, Haider aroused months of domestic and international protest after the Freedom Party won enough votes to be included in Austria's ruling coalition. He has apologized for referring positively to some World War II Nazi policies, but there is little sign that other European Union members are ready to relax their diplomatic isolation of Austria that those remarks helped to cause.
A controversial shooting incident cast an ominous early cloud over the May 16 presidential election in the Dominican Republic. Bodyguards for leading candidate Hippolito Mejia of the Revolutionary Party killed two men in what they said was retaliation for an attack on Mejia's car as it passed through a town 90 miles northwest of the capital, Santo Domingo. One of the victims was a local official of the ruling Liberation Party and chief of the National Center for Science and Art. His party denied Mejia's car had been targeted. Mejia, a leftist, is ahead of two rivals in recent polls. Incumbent Leonel Fernandez is barred from seeking reelection.
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