News In Brief

Reaction to President Bush's national missile defense announcement ranged from highly favorable (Australia) to deeply concerned (some European governments) to harsh warnings of a new arms race (China's official Xinhua news agency). Russia's foreign minister said he was prepared for "consultations" with the US administration. Australia pledged to allow its soil to be used for part of the antimissile shield.

Hopes for an early end to violence in the Middle East were shaken by the demolition of 18 houses in a Palestinian refugee camp by Israeli forces. The raid in the southern Gaza Strip was conducted because the buildings were used as cover by Palestinian snipers and bomb-carriers, an army spokesman said. A teenager died and 14 other people were hurt in an ensuing gunfight.

In an eagerly awaited address to the nation, Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid mentioned neither parliament's second censure of him over two financial scandals nor growing demands that he resign. Instead, he laced his remarks with nationalistic references and pledges to improve his government's performance.

Sixty-seven other candidates - one of them a woman - filed nomination papers for president of Iran on the first day of registration. But incumbent Mohamad Khatami kept observers guessing about whether he'd seek reelection. Hopefuls must register for the June 8 election by Sunday. Among those filing: Farah Khosravi, a solid conservative and the first female to run for president since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Tight security and a news blackout were imposed by Chinese authorities as inspection of the damaged Navy surveillance plane on a Hainan Island military base began by the US. But reports said only one of the five US technicians sent to the site was being allowed to see the $80 million EP-3E, which is packed with sensitive monitoring equipment.

The ruling coalition was reeling from a leaked internal memo to Prime Minister John Howard that accuses him and other Australian leaders of going "out of our way to antagonize our traditional support base." The memo by the president of his Liberal Party, also says the five-year-old government has been "too tricky" on such issues as tax reform. Howard is expected to call a national election by year's end, but his Liberal/ National Party coalition trails the opposition Labor Party by 12 points in opinion polls.


(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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