With Israeli legislators close to returning from their long summer recess, Prime Minister Ehud Barak and the leader of the opposition Likud movement again failed to agree on a "unity" deal that would broaden Barak's coalition, which controls only 30 of 120 seats in the Knesset. More talks were expected, but Likud's Ariel Sharon said he'd join the One Israel bloc only if Barak vowed not to follow through with concessions to Palestinians offered at the July Camp David peace talks. Critics say Sharon's inclusion in the coalition would dim regional peace prospects.
A new furor was expected in Peru if reports that notorious ex-secret service chief Vladi-miro Montesinos had made a surprise return from exile proved true. President Alberto Fujimori's longtime liaison to the military wasn't seen aboard a private jet that landed at an airport 150 miles from Lima, the capital, but the plane fit the description of one he has been using. Montesinos fled to Panama after triggering Peru's worst political crisis in years last month when a videotape showed him appearing to offer a bribe to an opposition legislator to support Fujimori.
Early returns from Sunday's presidential election in Ivory Coast appeared to give the only remaining serious challenger to military ruler Robert Guei a large enough lead for a first-round win. Veteran Socialist Laurent Gbagbo was claiming victory on the basis of a 51.3 percent to 40.5 percent margin over Guei, but the latter's aides maintained the outcome was far from certain. Guei has pledged to give up power if he loses fairly. A boycott of the election by opposition parties helped to keep turnout low, with Guei's best-known opponents excluded from the ballot by the courts.
Mexico's struggling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was awarded an important victory in Tabasco state, where elections officers declared Manuel Andrade the winner of the disputed race for governor. He edged Raul Ojeda of the Democratic Revolutionary Party by about 8,000 votes one week after the vote had been judged too close to call. Ojeda argued the election was marred by fraud and called on President-elect Vicente Fox to recognize him as the winner. Earlier this year Fox handed the PRI its first loss in a presidential election.
Independence leader Jose (Xanana) Gusmo was elected to lead East Timor's UN-appointed legislature, which will be responsible for drafting laws in preparation for next year's general election. Gusmo is widely expected to become the first president when the UN ends its mandate in a year or two. Meanwhile, an Indonesian court ordered the release of militia leader Eurico Guterres, who's suspected of orchestrating much of the violence that swept the former Portuguese colony 13 months ago.
The aging and troubled space station Mir will be allowed to plunge into the Pacific Ocean in late February, senior Russian officials told news outlets. The move, made necessary because of Russia's participation in the new International Space Station project, appears to doom a roughly $100 million proposal by private investors to keep Mir as an orbiting luxury resort.
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