News In Brief

Within hours after Prime Minister Ehud Barak's sudden resignation from office, Israel's Labor Party declared him its candidate for reelection. Barak's move was seen as tactical - to block the potential candidacy of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, because he currently isn't serving in parliament, would need a special exemption to seek the post again under a special election of the type called by the prime minister.

In a surprise move, the military government of Pakistan freed deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from prison, and he flew immediately to exile in Saudi Arabia. The junta said only that the move was "in the best interests of the country." Sharif was to remain as head of his Pakistan Muslim League, but a ban on holding public office for 21 years remained in effect, along with forfeiture of almost $10 million in personal property.

Four suspects were under arrest after a car-bomb blast that killed at least 21 people in Chechnya and hurt 22 others, many of them seriously. The attack succeeded despite a tip that led police to disarm a bomb in a parked vehicle in a town south of Grozny, the capital. A second bomb elsewhere in the car went off as a crowd gathered at the scene. One suspect was believed to be a member of a Russian paramilitary unit, an indication that Chechen rebels may be infiltrating police ranks.

Early turnout was poor as voters in Romania went to the polls in a runoff election to choose a new president. By midafternoon, fewer than one-quarter of those eligible had voted nationally. Ex-President Ion Iliescu appeared likely to coast to victory.

Little hope of a breakthrough in the stalemated peace process in Northern Ireland was held by key players there as they awaited President Clinton's arrival tomorrow. The trip is the last he has scheduled overseas before leaving office. Instead of optimism, Britain's secretary for the province, Peter Mandelson, warned that "the threat is very real" of pre-Christmas violence by renegade members of the Irish Republican Army.

A runoff election for president appeared necessary in Ghana after Friday's voting left ruling party candidate John Atta Mills and his leading rival both short of the necessary 50 percent for victory in the first round. With ballot-counting all but complete, opposition candidate John Kufuor had 48.4 percent of the vote, to 44.8 percent for Mills. But Kufuor's New Patriotic Party took over control of parliament, reports said.

Direct telephone service between Cuba and the US will be cut Friday, the Havana government said. The move, the second of its type in two years, was announced in retaliation for the failure of US companies to pay a new 10 percent tax on long-distance service. The US carriers argued that they haven't been authorized by Washington to pay the levy.

Thirty-six contested races for seats in parliament may not be invalidated by the courts - even in case of fraud, a new decree issued by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said. It effectively voids challenges to the contested elections by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which claims last June's voting was tainted by violence and intimidation.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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