News In Brief

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo called the reported beheading of an American hostage held by Muslim rebels a "dastardly act" and stepped up military efforts to find the Abu Sayyaf separatists who claimed responsibility. The reported killing occurred despite a concession by her government to bring a Malaysian mediator into negotiations on freeing the hostages. Rebels said they killed Californian Guillermo Sobero because they doubted Arroyo's sincerity. Rebels are holding two other Americans and at least 25 Filipinos, as the crisis enters a third week. (Story, page 6.)

CIA Director George Tenet suspended his Mideast mission without an accord between Israel and the Palestinians to extend their shaky cease-fire and resume peace talks. Israel had accepted "in principle" his plan despite some concerns, but Palestinians raised objections to a key provision to arrest militants. The sides also disagreed on a timeline for each to carry out its commitments.

At least 50,000 South Korean workers, many of them employees of two major airlines, went on strike, demanding higher wages, shorter workweeks, and other concessions. Most Asiana and Korean Air flights were canceled. President Kim Dae-jung, calling the strike illegal, vowed to take action against union leaders. The strike was expected to escalate today, with 18 hospital unions pulling members off their jobs.

In his latest move to avoid impeachment, embattled Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid reshuffled his Cabinent economics team, a move he said was aimed at smoothing relations with unhappy foreign lenders. Analysts dismissed Wahid's move, saying it wouldn't save him from impeachment by parliament later this summer.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble called on British Prime Minister Tony Blair to support his party - a vital player in Northern Ireland's peace accord - following elections last week in which Protestant and Catholic moderates both lost local parliamentary seats to hard-liners. Trimble and Blair are expected to meet next week to try to salvage the joint Catholic-Protestant administration that Trimble leads.

President Bush opened his first tour of Europe by meeting with Spanish King Juan Carlos and Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Meanwhile, Bush met criticism from European leaders, including French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine, for his desire to scrap - or at least heavily modify - the 1997 Kyoto treaty on global warming. The European Union also criticized his new initiatives on climate change as short on action. Bush later plans to address European leaders' concerns on his missile-defense plan, peacekeeping troops in the Balkans, and expanding NATO membership.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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