News In Brief

Judges "will be in a position to announce a verdict" today in the trial of two Libyan defendants for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Scotland, they said. Abdel Basset al-Megrahi and Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima sat nervously as the judges revealed they'd issue their finding earlier than anticipated. If found guilty, they would likely be sentenced to life terms in prison. The 84-day trial has been held at an old US air base in the Netherlands.

In what he called a "personal assessment," India's defense minister said deaths from the Jan. 26 earthquake could reach 100,000 people. Twice that number may be injured, George Fernandes added, as aftershocks still were felt Tuesday. Damage from the quake is estimated at $5.5 billion. (Story, page 1; editorial, page 8; related opinion, page 9.)

A special commission of legislators investigating Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid's role in two multimillion-dollar scandals accused him of knowingly breaking laws. But it was unclear whether parliament would take steps to impeach him. Wahid has protested his innocence, but the issue has triggered massive street protests in Jakarta, and defense officials warned of a possible military coup if the nation drifted toward anarchy.

Leftist guerrillas were expected to be granted an extension on their Switzerland-size rural haven in Colombia today by President Andres Pastrana. Army tanks were in position on the perimeter of the haven as tonight's midnight deadline approached for Pastrana's decision, but analysts said no order for them to move against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was likely. Pastrana is risking his political career on reaching a peace deal with the 17,000-member movement, but FARC broke off negotiations last November.

A controversial decree banning legal challenges to last year's election results in Zimbabwe was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The opposition Movement for Democratic Change vowed to begin contesting the outcome of 38 races for parliament seats immediately, a move that analysts said could oust President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF from power for the first time in 21 years. Mugabe issued the decree Dec. 8.

The slaughter of 400,000 head of cattle by authorities in Germany is "all but inevitable," the government's agriculture minister said. Renate Kuenast is expected to reach her decision as soon as today amid still-spreading alarm over so-called "mad cow" disease. In Brussels, European Union members were warned that storing the growing glut of unsold beef at the bloc's expense may overwhelm its $37 billion annual farm budget.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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