News In Brief

Another demand for a US apology was issued by China's Defense Ministry over the surveillance plane incident despite reports that the two sides are progressing toward an end to their week-old standoff in intensive behind-the-scenes discussions. The Liberation Army Daily newspaper also insisted China is entitled to "thoroughly investigate" the crew of the US plane. Senior US sources said the wording of a joint letter that would express regret - but not an apology - for the apparent death of the Chinese jet pilot in the incident was being negotiated.

New violence between Palestinians and Israelis marred the Passover/Palm Sunday weekend in spite of a message of goodwill by Yasser Arafat. At least one death was reported: an Israeli Arab shot in the West Bank for alleged collaboration with Israeli authorities. Arafat spoke by phone Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Sharon, their first reported direct contact in a month.

With the scheduled presidential election two months away, 40 members of Iran's only active opposition group were arrested on charges of trying to overthrow the conservative clergy establishment. Reports said offices of the Freedom Movement also were shut down. The group, long tolerated despite being technically illegal, was banned last month. It briefly led an interim government after the 1979 revolution, but was toppled by the clergy for being "pro-Western."

Peace negotiations between the Philippine government and communist rebels will resume April 27 in Norway, the latter announced. The two sides have been at war for 32 years at a cost of more than 40,000 lives. The talks between the government and the communist New People's Army collapsed in 1999 after the Senate voted to authorize resumption of large-scale antiguerrilla operations.

Amid reports that tourism revenue already has plunged by up to 80 percent in the hardest-hit areas, British travel officials handed Prime Minister Blair the highest estimate yet of losses this summer from foot-and-mouth disease: $7.2 billion. Despite his assurances that Britain is safe for travel, officials in two counties unaffected by the livestock malady said their popular scenic footpaths will remain closed to outsiders. Meanwhile, with the number of outbreaks in Britain and Northern Ireland at 1,102, Agriculture Minister Nick Brown predicted it will be another week before experts can say whether the epidemic has peaked.

Protests numbering an estimated 14,000 Russians were held on consecutive days in Moscow and St. Petersburg against a government takeover of the nation's only independent TV station. The protesters supported what journalists at NTV say will be their refusal to accept a new slate of managers imposed by the station's largest stockholder, Kremlin-controlled Gazprom, a natural gas utility. St. Petersburg is President Vladimir Putin's hometown.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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