News In Brief

The government of Macedonia was being pressured on two fronts over what to do about the week-old insurgency by ethnic Albanian guerrillas. A rebel communique offered negotiations to settle the violence but vowed more fighting if the Skopje government did not respond. Meanwhile, on a visit to the capital, the European Union's special representative for foreign affairs, ex-NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana, called peace talks "a mistake" that "we will not recommend." Against that backdrop, the tiny state's two main Albanian political parties signed a statement urging guerrillas to abandon the insurgency and return home. (Stories, pages 1, 8.)

"New forms of struggle" will be sought, Zapatista rebel leaders said, in announcing plans to end their lobbying in Mexico's capital for a strong Indian-rights law. Subcomandante Marcos, said he and his followers would return to the impoverished state of Chiapas because his request to address the full Congress in support of the measure was not granted. The move was seen as a setback for President Vicente Fox, who backed indigenous rights and hoped that passage of the bill would pave the way for a resumption of peace talks with the Zapatistas.

For the second time in less than a month, Argentina's president appointed a new economy minister after the latest office-holder made good on a threat to quit if his rigid austerity plan ran into opposition. Ricardo Lopez Murphy was quickly replaced by Domingo Cavallo, who held the post from 1991 to 1996. Only last Friday, Lopez Murphy outlined a $4.5 billion plan to cut government spending and eliminate certain tax breaks in an effort to shake the nation out of almost three years of recession. But he left saying the plan was no longer in effect.

Although failing to declare a national emergency over the spread of AIDS, the government of South Africa released an estimate putting the infection rate even higher than previously thought. Based on a survey of 400 clinics, health officials said 4.7 million residents, or 1 in 9, carry HIV, the virus that is believed to cause the disease. Earlier estimates had the ratio at 1 in 10. Last week, President Thabo Mbeki disappointed critics by rejecting calls for an emergency declaration that would have allowed South Africa to import cheaper generic drugs to deal with the disease or to produce them itself by legally bypassing patent laws.

An hour-by-hour plan for the reentry of Russia's Mir space station calls for its remaining debris to splash into the Pacific Ocean between Chile and New Zealand Friday morning, senior officials in Moscow said. The landing zone is outside sea and air travel routes, so the estimated 40 tons of pieces - some as large as a car - should pose no risk to human life, they said. (Story, page 1.)

Emergency crews struggled to keep 400,000 gallons of crude oil and diesel fuel from leaking into the Atlantic Ocean after a huge offshore pumping platform sank off northeastern Brazil. The rig, belonging to the state-owned company Petrobras, was weakened by explosions and a fire last week that killed at least two workers. Eight others are missing. Petrobras had planned to increase production before the accident.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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