News In Brief

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in a race against time to try to recapture the office after announcing he'd challenge Ehud Barak, who ousted him 18 months ago. But because Barak - in resigning over the weekend - called a special election without dissolving parliament, Netanyahu has only two weeks in which to win a change to the law that forbids nonlegislators from seeking the post. The ultra-Orthodox Shas Party said it would sponsor such a bill. Its prospects, however, were uncertain. Parliament already is considering a measure that would thwart Barak by dissolving itself and forcing a general election. But that legislation is two readings away from becoming law.

Leaders of the 15 member nations of the European Union ended a marathon push to finish their summit by agreeing to make it easier to admit applicants. The decision leaves fewer opportunities for one member to blackball newcomers. A dozen applicants, most of them from the old Soviet bloc, are awaiting admission, and some have complained that the EU has ignored their efforts at political reform. (Story, page 6.)

Former dictator Augusto Pinochet was freed from having to defend himself against murder and kidnapping charges by an appeals court in Chile, reports said as the Monitor went to press. A lower court had indicted him Dec. 1.

In an 11th-hour hitch, the Iraqi government pulled back from a resumption of oil sales under its just-renewed agreement with the UN. The government said it would insist on a 40-cent-a-barrel surcharge, payable directly to an Iraqi bank account, before deliveries could be made. Such terms violate the UN's oil-for-food program, which was extended for six more months last week. Under it, buyers of Iraqi oil make their payments to a UN-controlled escrow account.

With much of the country boycotting last weekend's election in Ivory Coast, the party of President Laurent Gbagbo appeared headed for control of parliament. Gbagbo's Ivorian Popular Front won 83 of the first 171 seats decided in the voting, to 68 for its nearest rival, the former ruling Democratic Party. Rally of the Republicans, the party of ex-Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, sat out the election after he was ruled off the ballot, and there was no voting in the 29 districts that represent his support base.

Official but not-yet-final results from the runoff election for president in Romania showed a landslide victory for ex-Communist chief of state Ion Iliescu. His margin over ultrarightist rival Corneliu Vadim Tudor appeared likely to be in the range of 67 percent to 33 percent. Tudor called the outcome fraudulent and said he would sue to have it overturned.

More embarrassing publicity was piling up around Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori after a popular magazine published photos of him appearing to enjoy the company of an alleged underworld figure. The face of the other man in the pictures was retouched and unrecognizable. But in an accompanying report, the weekly Gendai quotes Mori as telling aides: "If this comes out, I'm finished." Mori, whose public opinion ratings have been below 20 percent because of a succession of public relations gaffes, said he'd sue the publication for libel.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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