News In Brief

Elections for a new Israeli government could be held as soon as next May 8, reports said, after Prime Minister Ehud Barak unexpectedly sided with opponents in parliament who were pushing for an early vote. Analysts called the move the biggest political risk of his career and said it threw into even deeper confusion the effort to achieve a final peace settlement with Palestinians. Barak's term is not scheduled to end until 2003.

Right-wing Likud movement leader Ariel Sharon vowed to challenge Barak in the forthcoming election, saying he wanted to prevent further "very dangerous" concessions to the Palestinians. But Sharon also held out the possibility of further negotiations with the prime minister to form a unity government - an eventuality that almost certainly would quash peace efforts.

Without firing a shot, Serb police recaptured a strategic village in the disputed southern valley invaded last week by militant ethnic Albanians from Kosovo. Most of the Albanians had fled before the police arrived, leaving only elderly residents behind. But the takeover brought the Serbs to within 500 yards of the militants, who easily could be seen entrenched in nearby hills.

The volume rose in the escalating war of words between reform-minded Iranian President Mohamad Khatami and the nation's hard-line judicial system. Khatami challenged the courts to enforce the rights and freedoms granted by the Constitution. Earlier this week, judiciary chief Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi accused Khatami of criticizing the courts as a ploy to win votes in his expected bid for reelection next year. The furor began Sunday when Khatami, who swept into office in 1997 partly on a pledge to restore the rule of law, complained that he lacked "adequate prerogatives" to do so. Numerous trials of his reformist allies have been held this year and more lie ahead.

For the first time in more than two years, a land route across the disputed border between Eritrea and Ethiopia was reopened to vehicular traffic. The move, by UN forces assigned to peacekeeping duty in the 15-mile-wide buffer zone between the rivals, is the first of three scheduled as "confidence builders." The two countries agreed in June to cease hostilities and accept a UN mission that ultimately will number 4,200 troops.

A six-month total ban on bone meal and other animal byproducts in the feed given to cows, hogs, and poultry was proposed by the European Union's executive commission. The call was among several developments across the Continent as fears deepened over the spread of so-called "mad cow" disease. Switzerland reported the discovery of its 17th case of infected cattle this year. Croatia banned all beef imports from Germany, which reported its first cases Monday, and from the Netherlands. Germany's parliament was poised to enact a ban on meat-based animal feed today. And France made available $65 million in new low-interest loans to farmers facing steep losses because of their infected herds.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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