News In Brief

"The rules of the game have changed," senior Israeli officials said, after a bombing raid on a Syrian radar post deep inside Lebanon killed three soldiers and wounded six others. The late-night assault came in retaliation for rocket attacks on Israel from Lebanon by Hizbullah guerrillas that killed an Israeli soldier Saturday. Arab leaders condemned the action, Israel's first against Syrian targets in Lebanon in five years, and warned it could further destabilize the region. But Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said he was "working to make sure there will not be an escalation." He said, however, the attack was a message to Syria that Israel sees it as "the only ones responsible" for Hizbullah aggression.

Based on official statements, news reports, and the setting up of a Web site for deceased fighter pilot Wang Wei, China appeared to be preparing for a confrontational meeting tomorrow with US representatives over the April 1 surveillance plane incident. Reports said 20,000 Internet users already had posted glowing tributes to Wang on the site, established for patriotic purposes. Still, the China Daily newspaper quoted a senior Trade Ministry official as saying a stable relationship between the two countries "is in line with the long-term interests of ... both," a potential sign of behind-the-scenes moves to salvage US-Chinese ties.

A humbled former President Joseph Estrada surrendered to authorities in the Philippines after a warrant for his arrest was issued by an anticorruption court. He posted a bond of $3,000 and was allowed to return home to prepare for trial May 17 on eight charges, one of which - plunder of the national treasury - is punishable by death. The warrant is believed to have been a first for a current or former chief of state in the Philippines.

Another summer of serious food shortages appears certain for millions of North Koreans, a senior UN official predicted. David Morton of the World Food Program said the communist-led country exhausted last year's harvest in January and only about half of the appealed-for 810,000 tons of grain from donor nations has been received to date. Conditions are not as bad as in 1997, when famine was at its worst, Morton said. But he said adequate food supplies will remain a problem until a way is found to revive an economy that has been reeling since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, its largest trading partner.

A poorly maintained cargo ship believed to be carrying as many as 250 child slaves was sighted off the coast of Equatorial Guinea in West Africa after its country of origin asked for international help in finding it. Authorities in Benin said they lack the means to intercept the ship although they've issued arrest warrants for its owner, captain, crew, and three businessmen accused of organizing and profiting from human trade. The Nigerian-registered vessel, at sea since March 30, has been refused permission to dock in Gabon and Cameroon.

Three days of mourning were decreed in Afghanistan for the second-ranking leader of the ruling Taliban movement. The remains of Mullah Mohammad Rabbani were flown home from neighboring Pakistan, where he had been undergoing treatment for cancer. It was not immediately clear who would succeed Rabbani, who was considered a relative moderate in the otherwise rigidly fundamentalist Islamic regime.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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