News In Brief

A political crisis appeared possible in Zimbabwe as President Robert Mugabe's party announced it intended to continue ruling even if it loses last weekend's national election. A spokesman for ZANU-PF said Mugabe "is an institution" and has the sole right to appoint his Cabinet from those elected to parliament, adding: "No other party has a chance." Mugabe was not running in the election; his term doesn't end until 2002. Analysts said the ZANU-PF announcement was a tacit recognition that it expected to incur heavy losses at the hands of voters.

Senior military officials reportedly were asking for a declaration of martial law to bring an end to the violence in Indonesia's troubled Molucca islands. Continued fighting between Muslims and Christians in the city of Ambon was blamed for 53 new deaths since last Thursday, and hospital officials said many more "of both faiths" were wounded. Martial law often was used during the 32-year rule of President Suharto to quell ethnic and other unrest. But new President Abdurrahman Wahid so far has resisted it because of a pledge to respect human rights.

Voters gave the three-party ruling coalition in Japan another majority in parliament, several of the nation's news outlets reported. But with official returns not due until early today, there were questions about the size of the Liberal Democratic Party-led bloc in the powerful lower house. The coalition went into the election with 65 percent of the seats, but even the rosiest of forecasts were indicating that margin could shrink to 56 percent. Turnout at the polls was reported in the 55 percent range, a drop from the record-low 60 percent for the 1996 election.

The first of 21 hostages captured by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines in late April was released unharmed. But although the move appeared to be the most important breakthrough so far in the nine-week-old crisis caused by Abu Sayyaf separatist guerrillas, government officials went out of their way to angrily deny reports that a ransom was paid to the captors for Zulkarnain Hashim, a Malaysian. A government negotiator said the rebels freed him because he was "the most religious" of their captives.

In a gesture of "goodwill," four women hostages in Fiji were freed by the rebels who'd been holding them captive since May 19. But after new negotiations with the nation's military failed to produce a settlement to the five-week-old political crisis, the rebels said they'd release no more hostages. They continue to hold 27 men at gunpoint, among them deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry. Neighboring Australia, meanwhile, offered Chaudhry exile once he is released.

Sabotage was ruled out as the cause of a powerful explosion and fire that ripped through the largest oil refinery in Kuwait, killing at least four people, injuring 49 others, and forcing an indefinite shutdown. It also affected the state's other two refineries, which are linked together, although it was not necessary to shut down their operations. The accident was the second at a Kuwaiti refinery in two weeks. Gas leaks were blamed in both cases.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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