News In Brief

Thousands of frightened civilians were fleeing Macedonia for refuge in neighboring nations to escape fighting between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas. Reports said streets in the city of Tetovo were deserted, although the guerrillas had been pushed up into nearby hills where they were being shelled by Army tanks. Meanwhile, NATO announced it will send additional troops to the Macedonia-Kosovo border to try to cut the guerrillas' supply lines, and the European Union pledged its full economic and political support to the tiny Balkan state.

The first two killings of Jews at the hands of Palestinians since new Prime Minister Ariel Sharon assumed power were reported in Israel. In another incident, high-profile Palestinian activist Hanan Ashrawi was slightly hurt in a confrontation between Israeli soldiers and demonstrators in the West Bank. Sharon, meanwhile, arrived in the US for his first meeting with President Bush to seek support for keeping peace negotiations on hold until violence stops in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

With embattled Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori in Washington to meet with Bush, Japan's central bank announced it would return to a policy of allowing interest rates to drop to near zero until basic consumer prices stopped falling. The policy was abandoned last August. The central bank already has lowered interest rates twice this year but had tried to resist pressure in political and business circles to ease monetary policy further amid recent plunges in the yen and stock market.

In a televised address to the nation, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua pleaded for opposition parties to join him in a unity government to end the "curse" of recession. The speech followed the unveiling last Friday of a two-year, $4.5 billion austerity plan, which triggered the resignations of three cabinet ministers, his chief of staff, and two others from the leftist wing of his coalition. Two weeks ago, de la Rua's economy minister also quit, and his successor has vowed to resign as well if the austerity plan runs into widespread opposition. Latin America's third-largest economy has been stagnant for 33 months.

Joyous leftists partied far into the night in Paris after their candidate won the mayor's race, marking the first time in 130 years that the city will not be governed by the political right. But although the Socialists also won control in Lyon, France's No. 2 city, they and their left-wing allies were pounded in 30 other local elections, leading analysts to conclude that a repeat in next year's national elections would likely cost Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's coalition government its hold on power.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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