News In Brief

A showdown loomed between caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak and opposition Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon for leadership of Israel after their mutual rival, Benjamin Netanyahu withdrew from the race for next February's election. Netanyahu made good on a vow to drop out if parliament failed to dissolve itself, insisting that a new slate of legislators also was necessary to end the nation's gridlocked politics.

A five-week effort to place UN observer forces in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was defeated in the Security Council, to expressions of deep regret by Palestinian leaders. Israel's Foreign Ministry hailed the decision as one of the Jewish state's biggest geopolitical victories in years. A resolution to curb violence in the two zones by interposing foreign military and police units between Palestinians and Israelis fell one vote short of passage.

An "extremely dangerous spectacle" of activity by Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano was prodding residents of the area to flee to safety despite refusing earlier to evacuate. Roads leading from towns at Popocatepetl's base were clogged with up to 56,000 people. Molten lava had yet to flow from the volcano crater, but scientists said its dome had more than doubled in size and red-hot rocks were being hurled high into the sky. Popocatepetl last erupted in 1994.

The last foreign members of the UN's staff in Afghanistan left the country amid expectations that the Security Council would impose tighter economic sanctions against the ruling Taliban movement. The measures, pushed by the US and Russia, would take effect in 30 days and last for at least a year unless the Taliban closes suspected terrorist training camps and hands over alleged terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden for trial for his role in the 1998 bombings of two US embassies.

The second attack by suspected Islamic insurgents in less than a week on a town in northwestern Algeria killed at least 22 people despite security efforts to ensure that the holy month of Ramadan would be peaceful. More than 200 have died in similar violence since Ramadan began in late November. The attacks have dealt a heavy blow to President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's pledge to root out the eight-year-old insurgency in which more than 100,000 people have died.

Suspicion fell on the so-called Russian mafia for an assassination attempt against a deputy to Moscow's mayor. Iosif Ord-zhonikidze was reported in critical condition and his chauffeur was killed after two masked gunmen fired on their car near the Kremlin. Ordzhonikidze has been high-profile Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's liaison to major foreign investment projects in the city - among them a newly signed deal to bring Formula One motor racing to Moscow.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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