News In Brief

Argentina's ex-President Carlos Menem was indicted and ordered to stand trial by a federal judge as part of an investigation into illegal arms sales by his government in the 1990s, officials said. Federal Judge Jorge Urso charged Menem with heading an "illicit organization" that funneled some 6,500 tons of weapons to Croatia in 1991 and Ecuador in 1995, despite international arms embargoes. The indictment comes after several of Menem's close aides were arrested on similar charges. Menem, who has been under house arrest since June 7, could face a five- to 10-year prison sentence.

Airline officials began investigating the crash of a Russian plane in Siberia that killed more than 140 passengers - the country's worst air disaster in years. The Tu-154 plane operated by Vladivostok Avia was taking passengers from Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains to the Pacific port city of Vladivostok when it crashed near Irkutsk. Relatives of those killed were planning to visit the crash site today.

A national strike by most Zimbabwe workers against President Robert Mugabe's economic policies and sharp fuel-price increases shut down businesses and factories across the country for a second day. The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions organized the strike to protest a 70 percent gasoline-price increase, imposed by the government June 12, that has spurred other price hikes. Mugabe was to decide on possible action against supporters of the strike, which has been declared illegal.

As many as 14 imprisoned followers of the outlawed Falun Gong spiritual movement hanged themselves at a labor camp in northeastern China, Chinese officials said, but Falun Gong members accused camp authorities of torturing the prisoners to death. Chinese officials have given conflicting accounts of the circumstances and number of deaths. The reported suicide would make it the most deadly involving Falun Gong practitioners in the government's intense two-year crackdown on the spiritual movement.

A government-appointed panel proposed a historic overhaul of German immigration policy, urging a controlled inflow of some 40,000 highly qualified foreign workers to help maintain the nation's prosperity and address worker shortages in high-technology fields. The panel recommended targets, such as allowing 20,000 highly trained foreign workers permanent residence in Germany annually. Lawmakers are debating the country's economic needs and immigration tolerance in hopes of eventually passing the first comprehensive immigration laws.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni held their first face-to-face peace talks in Tanzania as part of an effort to end the three-year war in Congo. Uganda backs one of two rebel groups seeking to oust the government of Kabila, who took over as Congo's leader after his father, Laurent Kabila, was assassinated in January. Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who mediated the talks, called them "very good conversations ... on our aspirations for peace, security, sovereignty, and the integrity of our countries."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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