News In Brief

US allies in NATO's top policy council appeared likely to offer only "substantive consultations" over the plan for a national missile defense proposed by President Bush. At a meeting in Budapest, Hungary, France and Germany led in resisting a more enthusiastic wording and in refusing to portray the possibility of a missile attack as a common threat to the alliance. A communique, however, omitted any mention of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which the Bush administration wants to scrap or at least heavily modify.

"With great pleasure," the military ruler of Pakistan formally accepted an invitation from rival India for a visit to New Delhi to discuss the Kashmir dispute and other bilateral issues. It was not immediately clear when the talks between Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee would be held. But Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh dampened hopes for a breakthrough on Kashmir, calling the dispute "a domestic issue" and relations with Pakistan "an international issue."

The 20 American and Filipino hostages seized Sunday by Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines will be executed en masse if government forces attempt the all-out assault ordered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a spokesman vowed. The Abu Sayyaf movement beheaded two hostages after an almost identical kidnapping last year and killed a Roman Catholic priest as army troops were moving in for a rescue attempt. The rebels have yet to issue a demand for release of the new hostages, although they traded some of those taken last year for millions of dollars in ransom. Arroyo ordered a news blackout and has refused to negotiate with the guerrillas.

The damaged US Navy surveillance plane held since April 1 at a Chinese military base will be airlifted out in pieces, under an agreement between the two governments, reports said. No time frame was announced. But the Foreign Ministry in Beijing said the ordeal should be a "lesson" to the US to cease surveillance flights off the Chinese coast. China also rejected a US request for a Navy minesweeper to make a "routine port call" at Hong Kong beginning June 28.

Frightened residents were streaming from the southern end of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic as government troops hunted the mutinous soldiers blamed for a coup attempt against President Ange-Felix Patasse. Reports said three suspects were killed, bringing the casualty count in two days of violence to at least 20. A dawn-to-dusk curfew was in force, businesses and schools were closed, and the state radio station was off the air.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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