News In Brief

Senior Chinese officials appeared to be softening their rhetoric against the US despite President Bush's pledge to defend Taiwan in case of war. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue said only that Bush was "on a dangerous road" that "deeply concerned" China's communist leadership. But she declined to say whether the pledge was seen as a change in US policy in the region. Meanwhile, the widely read morning editions of official newspapers did not even mention Bush's remark.

For its part, Taiwan officially welcomed Bush's pledge as a "crystal clear" signal to China to avoid force. But the Defense Ministry said it would need up to three months to decide whether to buy three Kidd-class destroyers, which are too big to use any of Taiwan's existing harbors as a base.

The slaughter of healthy cattle to halt the spread of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain is almost over, the Agriculture Ministry announced. But pigs and sheep on farms near infected sites still will be culled. The number of such sites now stands at 1,481, statistics showed. The ministry's announcement followed the discovery, alive, of a week-old calf under carcasses to be incinerated. The calf, nicknamed Phoenix, will be spared. Above, Michaela Board feeds the animal, now a national icon, on her farm in East Devon.

With tears in his eyes, pro-Western Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko vowed to return to politics after Ukraine's Communist-dominated parliament voted 263-69 for a motion of no confidence in his government. It was called on grounds that he had failed to improve the sagging economy. It was not immediately clear who would replace him, and analysts said the move would likely damage Ukraine's international standing. Thousands of angry Yushchenko supporters were protesting outside President Leonid Kuchma's residence in the capital, Kiev.

By unanimous vote, a sweeping bill to guarantee greater political and cultural rights to Mexico's Indians was approved by the national Senate. It now goes to the lower house of Congress and to state legislatures for their votes. But while action on the bill became President Vicente Fox's first legislative priority and triggered a high-profile march on Mexico City last month by Zapatista National Liberation Army rebels and their supporters, it was not clear whether the latter are happy with the version OK'd by the Senate. Some of the wording demanded by the Zapatistas was changed on grounds that it was too vague.

A corruption scandal that appeared to be closing in on French President Jacques Chirac was dropped by an investigating court. But Judge Eric Halphen said he believed there was "enough evidence to implicate" Chirac in an alleged pattern of accepting kickbacks during his 18 years as mayor of Paris. Halphen said he couldn't proceed further because of Chirac's immunity from prosecution.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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