News In Brief

Angry senior Palestinians denounced the decision by Israeli Prime Minister Barak to call "a timeout" in peacemaking efforts for a "reevaluation of the diplomatic process." He did not say when the step would begin, and aides denied that he intended to withdraw from attempts to forge a peace. The announcement followed the conclusion of an Arab leaders' conference in Egypt that declared member governments may "consider" cutting relations with Israel.

Low-level ties with Israel were severed by Tunisia, and Qatar's government said it was studying the possibility of closing an Israeli commercial office in the capital, Doha. But militant Palestinians still blasted the outcome of the conference, saying it didn't meet the minimum demands of "the Arab masses."

"Enormous problems" were being reported by elections officials in Ivory Coast even though hardly more than a trickle of voters had gone to the polls in the early hours of balloting for a new civilian president. In places, polls either had yet to open or had insufficient ballots and other materials at midmorning. But it was too early to tell whether a boycott urged by some of the nation's leading political parties was being heeded.

Major political parties in Canada placed large newspaper ads, posted fliers, and already were setting up campaign offices even before Prime Minister Jean Chretien announced that a national election would be held Nov. 27. Analysts had been saying Chretien would seek the new vote with his Liberal Party leading its main rival by 20 points in most national opinion polls; it currently leads the Alliance Party by 45 percent to 25. A victory would give the Liberals their third consecutive majority government - a feat that hasn't been achieved since World War II.

An emerging wiretapping scandal with the potential to damage Jamaica's vital winter tourism appeared linked to whether top officials have been protecting shipments of Colombian cocaine being smuggled to the US. Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, two of his Cabinet members, and street gang leaders known to have political connections reportedly had their telephones bugged, perhaps by a shadowy police intelligence unit. Patterson, who alone has the power to authorize wiretaps, ordered government prosecutors to take over the probe.

A crackdown against nightclubs in Mexico City appeared likely in the wake of a fire early Saturday that killed 19 people and injured 28 others at a glitzy disco that was operating with an illegal permit. Reports said two of the three exits at the Lobohombo club were blocked and guards tried to keep panicked patrons from leaving before they paid their tabs. Mayor Rosario Robles promised reforms and criticized judges who have allowed the club to stay in business despite 11 attempts by police to shut it down for code violations.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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