News In Brief

Except for a daily lull to allow civilians to flee villages under bombardment, there will be no long-term cease-fire in Macedonia, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said - even if that means the loss of ethnic-Albanian political support for a unity government. Georgievski was responding to a threat by the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) to pull out of the new coalition unless government troops ended their offensive against Albanian insurgents. He gave the PDP until today to decide.

Senior officials in Baghdad were taunting the US following reports that military commanders had recommended curtailing surveillance patrols over Iraq's northern "no fly" zone. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz told journalists that US and British pilots, who fly the missions, were afraid of Iraq's antiaircraft defenses. Patrols over the southern "no fly" zone were not believed to be included in the recommendation. Iraq maintains the zones are illegal and often claims to have hit or shot down the surveillance planes, but the US and Britain always deny them. The flights were continuing Thursday, a Western commander said.

In an earlier-than-expected move, the opposition Conservative Party unveiled its strategy for winning Britain's June 7 election. Party leader William Hague said the strategy would turn on a tax cut of $11.5 billion dollars within three years, coupled with a 32-cent-a-gallon reduction in the levy on gasoline, Europe's highest. Prime Minister Tony Blair countered with a promise to improve public services and challenged Hague to explain how he'd compensate for the loss in government revenue. Meanwhile, a new opinion poll for The Times (London) gave Blair's Labour Party a 24-point lead over the Conservatives.

A request for a last-minute televised debate between the leading rivals in Sunday's national election in Italy was rejected by conservative candidate for prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The decision meant he and left-of-center opponent Francesco Rutelli, the former mayor of Rome, would make their final appeals to voters via separate TV addresses tonight. Opinion polls point to probable victory for Berlusconi.

At least 130 people were killed when a riot among fans at a soccer game in Accra, Ghana, turned into a stampede. The incident was being called the worst sports disaster in African history. Reports said the violence began when supporters of the losing team ripped up seats and threw them and bottles onto the field. Panic set in when security police responded by firing tear gas and the stadium lights were turned off. The stampede was the fourth of its type in Africa since April 11.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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