News In Brief

David Trimble, the senior minister in Northern Ireland's suspended Protestant-Catholic administration, gave a cautious welcome to a promise by the Irish Republican Army to begin disarming. As part of a new initiative that nudged the IRA toward the pledge, Britain and Ireland announced they wanted to transfer powers back to the administration May 22. The entities also announced that two international statesmen would lead regular arms-dump inspections, and that the deadline for total IRA disarmament would be moved from this May 22 to June 2001.

A joint team of rebel leaders and UN representatives prepared to travel to the interior of Sierra Leone in an attempt to secure the release of peacekeepers, as many as 500 of whom may have been detained by the Revolutionary United Front. Although the UN retracted a statement that rebels were advancing on the capital of Freetown, reports indicated fighting farther away. Both the US and Britain urged nationals to leave the country.

The Philippine military reported that 13 soldiers and three guerrillas were killed when troops attempted to rescue nine remaining Filipino hostages held by Muslim rebels on Basilan island. The military also said the headless bodies of two male hostages were discovered there, confirming claims the Abu Sayyaf captors made two weeks ago. Meanwhile, on Jolo island, the military shelled a jungle hideout where the rebels are holding another 21 hostages, who are mostly foreigners. Several people were believed injured in the skirmishes.

Pledging to finish building democracy in Russia and restore the country as a world power, Vladimir Putin was sworn in as president. The ceremony marked the first democratic transfer of power in the nation's history. In his first act after taking the oath of office, Putin named economics specialist Mikhail Kasyanov prime minister. He's effectively been Russia's No. 2 official since Putin appointed him first deputy in early January.

Investigators were in the midst of gathering more information for the possible arrest of a Filipino hacker suspected of creating the "Love bug" virus that disrupted computer systems around the world last week, the Philippines' police chief said. But some computer experts have cautioned that the electronic trail that's led to the Philippines could be a deliberate smokescreen, The Washington Post reported.

Despite a hard-line crackdown on pro-democracy newspapers in the days before voting, Iranians chose reformists by at least a 2-to-1 margin in Friday's runoff elections for parliament. If the results stand, reformers will have enough seats to control the 290-member Majlis for the first time since the 1979 Islamic revolution. The Guardian Council, which had annulled the victories of a dozen reformists in the first round of voting, has to confirm the latest results.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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