News In Brief

Hopes rose for an end to the year-long uprising in southern Serbia by ethnic Albanian guerrillas when their leaders signed a one-week, NATO-brokered truce with Yugoslav forces. Without using armored vehicles, it allows Serb troops and police to take control of parts of the buffer zone adjoining the Macedonian border, where Albanians have been operating and where 17 Serbs have died in recent weeks.

In his first Cabinet meeting since assuming the prime ministership of Israel, Ariel Sharon outlined a five-point plan for dealing with the nation's Palestinian crisis. Its main prong: restoring security after more than five months of violence. But reports said ministers from the Labor Party, the key partner in Sharon's unity government, protested the tightening of a military blockade in the West Bank city of Ramallah, insisting "this ... must be revised, and it will be."

Insisting he'd been misunderstood, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori said reports that he indicated his intention to resign were wrong. "I myself did not say such a thing," the unpopular government chief told members of parliament as a censure motion against him was being prepared by opposition legislators. If passed, it would have only symbolic value since he survived a no-confidence vote last week. Mori also hinted he might seek reelection as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in an election he decided to move up from September to next month. (Related story, page 1.)

May 3 will be the date for the next national election in Britain, London newspapers said they'd learned. If the reports are correct, that would put the vote on the same day as already-scheduled local elections. Prime Minister Tony Blair has until May of next year to call the election. But his Labour Party currently enjoys a comfortable lead in opinion polls over the opposition Conservatives despite recent scandals and the government's problems in halting the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock herds.

Ballot-counting was under way in Uganda after a high turnout in the election for president, although there were numerous reports of fraud and harassment of voters. An aide to challenger Kizza Besigye warned his campaign would not recognize the results from at least one district because poll watchers had been intimidated.

For the first time in 130 years, leftists appeared poised to take control of city government in Paris. The Socialist Party and the environmentalist Green Party struck a deal following the first round of local elections last weekend to merge, giving the former's Bertrand Delanoe a leg up on incumbent Mayor Jean Tiberi and other rivals in next Sunday's second round. Analysts said a leftist victory in Paris would deal a heavy blow to conservative President Jacques Chirac, who is expected to seek reelection next year against Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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