News In Brief

With "no signs of flexibility" in the Palestinian position on key issues holding up a final peace agreement with Israel, Prime Minister Barak declared an indefinite timeout in negotiations. Senior Palestinian sources reacted by accusing Israel of "trying to assign blame to us" and of "closing all the doors to any progress." The sides remain stalled on sovereignty over Jerusalem, on the future borders of a Palestinian state, and over the "right of return" of Palestinians who fled Israel in the late 1940s. Analysts said Barak's move may have been tactical - to increase pressure on the Palestinians for compromise, with proposals aimed at bridging their differences due to be offered by the US soon.

Crude oil prices were backing off slightly from 10-year highs on world markets, but the news failed to stop a fresh round of protests stretching from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. In London, crude for November delivery was down 24 cents a barrel at midday after hitting $34.98 Monday. (In New York, futures were at $36.30 in early trading after touching $37.15 a barrel Monday). Angry truckers, farmers, and commercial fishers began or continued disruptions in Sweden, Ireland, Germany, Spain, and Israel. In Wales, lines at least a mile long formed at filling stations merely on rumors that haulers for Texaco were going on strike. (Related story, page 2.)

The first government troops were deployed to Jezzine, the largest Christian city in south Lebanon, since it was evacuated by pro-Israeli forces. Soldiers raised the Lebanese flag over an outpost where the South Lebanon Army (SLA), Israel's proxy militia, disbanded after the Jewish state withdrew from the region in late May. The SLA left Jezzine in June 1999. A token force of Lebanese troops moved into other sections of south Lebanon Aug. 9, marking the first time the Beirut government had asserted control there since the 1970s.

At least 16 people died and more than 70 others were hurt when a bomb exploded in a cargo of grapes at a wholesale market in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. The shipment reportedly originated near the border with Afghanistan. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on Afghan rebels who've been critical of the Pakistani government for supporting Afghanistan's Taliban movement. Police said three suspects were in custody.

The remains of as many of the Russian sailors as possible who died aboard the sunken nuclear submarine Kursk were ordered by President Vladimir Putin to be brought to the surface, despite warnings by naval experts of the safety risks involved. The effort is to begin next month, with the help of a British-Norwegian diving company. Putin also ordered that the Kursk, which rests 350 feet below the surface of the Barents Sea, be raised next summer. It sank with 118 men aboard Aug. 12 after massive internal explosions.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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