News In Brief

Behind sealed doors, vote counting in the most fiercely contested election in Zimbabwe's history began even as international monitors condemned the balloting as neither free nor fair. But the largest turnout of voters - estimated at 3 million - since independence in 1980 was leading some observers to believe that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change might oust President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF movement from power.

Some of the Irish Republican Army's secret weapons caches were opened to international inspectors for the first time, although analysts said the bulk of its arsenal is stored not in Northern Ireland but across the border in the Irish Republic. Inspectors Martti Ahtisaari of Finland and Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa said they saw a "substantial amount" of IRA weaponry that could not be used again without their knowledge. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish Republic counterpart, Bertie Ahern, praised the move, but Blair said inspections were not a substitute for eventual destruction of the weapons.

No shakeups in foreign or economic policy should be expected despite the weekend election that stripped his party of its majority in parliament, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said. His coalition lost 65 seats in the voting - 38 of them by his own Liberal Democratic Party. Still, the LDP and its two partners agreed Mori should keep his office despite his personal unpopularity and record-low approval rating in opinion polls.

A formal state of emergency in Indonesia's volatile Molucca islands was declared by President Abdurrahman Wahid, who called the situation there "out of control." More than 150 people have died in the past week in fighting between Muslims and Christians. Wahid's decree was the first in a three-step process that leads to martial law, although protesters on both sides said the situation demanded the complete replacement of police and government troops, whom they called biased and ineffective.

Despite standing a distant third in Mexican opinion polls, leftist candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas flatly rejected an appeal to drop out of the race for president. Cardenas said he wouldn't back rightist Vicente Fox to avoid splitting the opposition vote in the July 2 election against the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party's Francisco Labastida. Most polls show Cardenas has less than 20 percent support.

For the first time in the almost six-week-old political crisis in Fiji, the Army warned it would use force if necessary against rebels holding ethnic-Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 26 others hostage. A spokesman said no new negotiations would be held with rebel leader George Speight until he freed the hostages and signed an accord aimed at ending the crisis. The rebels, who seek increased rights for indigenous Fijians, are mistaken if they think they have the endless support of the mainly Fijian Army, he said.

The medical team treating Slovakian President Rudolf Schuster was being accused of hiding the details of his condition amid reports that his life was in jeopardy. Schuster has had three emergency operations since early last week, although a bulletin issued by his doctors called his condition "good."

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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