News In Brief

Pessimism grew in the Middle East as President Clinton's meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders at the UN produced no breakthrough toward a final peace deal. Clinton met Prime Minister Barak and Palestinian Authority President Arafat, and his senior Mideast mediator, Dennis Ross, was to hold follow-up discussions with their delegations. But with Wednesday's self-imposed deadline for a final accord looming - and the possibility of a declaration of Palestinian statehood by Arafat - both sides said they had no more room for maneuvering on the key remaining issue: the status of Jerusalem.

Fifteen suspects were arrested in connection with the rampage by pro-Indonesian militiamen against a UN compound in West Timor. Authorities said they were searching for more, but "we have to be careful; there are thousands of them." After Wednesday's violence, in which six people died, the UN suspended operations in West Timor, leaving an estimated 90,000 East Timorese without an assured supply of food and other necessities in refugee camps along the border.

"Empty" signs were going up at gas stations in France as the nationwide protest over the high cost of fuel by truckers spread. Roads to about 100 fuel depots and refineries were being blocked, and city traffic snarled as farmers and taxi drivers joined the dispute. Police stopped more than a dozen farm tractors from shutting off access to the vital Channel Tunnel. The government has offered 8.5 cents in fuel-tax refunds over two years but is rejecting further compromise and negotiations with the protesters.

In the first reported incident of its type since Olympic athletes began arriving for the summer Games at Sydney, Australia, a wrestling trainer for Uzbekistan's national team was caught with vials of suspected performance-enhancing drugs in his possession. The vials, confiscated at the city's airport, were being tested to confirm that they contained HGH (human growth hormone). The importation of such substances without advance permission from Australia's Health Ministry carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $57,000 fine.

More than $700 million in government funds is missing in impoverished Nepal, and no effort is being made to recover it, the nation's auditor general reported. All government agencies in the Himalayan kingdom, one of the world's poorest countries, were asked in January to settle accounts and to punish employees who continued to default. But only a few complied, and a commission investigating such abuses has lost almost every case it filed against violators.

Two months after the signing of a truce, ethnic rivals in the Solomon Islands finally opened peace negotiations aimed at ending their violent conflict. Almost two years of simmering tensions erupted June 5 when Malaita fighters seized the capital, Honiara. The move was a backlash against the expulsion of thousands of their tribesmen by rival Isatubus angry that the Malaitans were taking the best jobs and land. At least 60 people have died in the fighting.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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