News In Brief

Despite an overwhelming reelection victory by Iranian President Mohamad Khatami, his reformist agenda remained likely to be resisted as vigorously by the nation's powerful hard-line clergy in his second term as it was in his first, analysts said. Khatami pulled in 77 percent of the vote in Friday's balloting, to just 15.6 percent for his closest challenger. But turnout, at 67 percent, was far lower than the 83 percent when he won his first term in 1997. And his powers remain dwarfed by those of the deeply entrenched Islamic leadership.

The already shaky cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians appeared threatened by the killing of three women in a barrage of tank fire that Army spokesmen said was in retaliation for shooting near a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip. The violence was the worst in more than a week. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon also sharpened his anti-Palestinian rhetoric, comparing Yasser Arafat to Saudi dissident and accused terrorism-financier Osama bin Laden.

The badly defeated opposition Conservative Party in Britain was searching for a new leader and elders were warning it might be unelectable for a generation because of its "obsession" with remaining independent of continental Europe. Tory chief William Hague announced he'll leave the post after last week's easy reelection victory by the Labour Party of Prime Minister Tony Blair. But analysts said Labour also revealed internal problems, with Blair dismissing Foreign Minister Robin Cook and replacing him with Jack Straw, the ex-home secretary.

As an estimated 7,000 civilian noncombatants streamed toward safety in nearby Kosovo, ethnic-Albanian insurgents issued an ultimatum to Macedonia's prime minister to call off the shelling of mountain villages under their control or risk an attack on the capital, Skopje. The insurgents and government forces were facing off in a Skopje suburb from which mortar rounds could easily reach the city center. Above, police search a motorist and his car they ordered off the road four miles from the capital.

Only demands for the unconditional release of all hostages can be expected from the government's negotiator, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo said, as the deadline set by Muslim rebels neared for complying with their terms. The Abu Sayyaf group threatened to behead three Americans it took captive two weeks ago if outside mediators are not admitted to the negotiations. Two of the rebels were killed and two others wounded Sunday when they resisted arrest, an Army spokesman said.

An intensive review of the criminal code was to begin immediately in Japan after last Friday's mass stabbings at an elite elementary school by a suspect with a history of mental illness. Eight children died; 13 others and two teachers were hurt. News accounts quoted police as saying the suspect, a former janitor, told them the attack was premeditated and that he had asked to be executed. New Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said insufficiencies in criminal law must be corrected without delay because "the fabric of safe society is crumbling."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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