Across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians were carrying out a one-day general strike in protest against Israel's seizure late last week of their symbolic Jerusalem headquarters. Their leader, Yasser Arafat, was to meet with Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Satterfield, who strongly criticized the Israeli move. But senior aides to Arafat scorned the US envoy as a "babysitter" lacking authority to make decisions related to achieving stability in the region while "Momma" (President Bush) vacations at "a ranch somewhere in the US." (Related story, page 1.)
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave his top diplomat the OK to resume contacts with senior Palestinians on a proposed regional cease-fire. But Foreign Minister Shimon Peres was ordered not to engage in peace negotiations and to seek special approval for discussions with Arafat. At the same time, Sharon sharply criticized Arafat's Palestinian Authority for freeing from jail three members of the militant Hamas movement suspected of involvement in bombings.
Clearing the way for the influx of 3,500 NATO peacekeeping troops, Macedonian government and ethnic-Albanian negotiators signed a historic accord in Skopje. The deal confers increased rights, influence, and a share of power on minority Albanians but requires the disarming of guerrilla insurgents once a "sustainable" cease-fire has taken hold. But while the government reinstated a truce, ignored in recent weeks, heavy shelling was heard in Skopje (as Army troops watch, above) hours before the ceremony.
Visas were granted to diplomats seeking to visit eight foreign-aid workers detained by Afghan-istan's ruling Taliban on charges of promoting Christianity. But the envoys were refused access to the detainees until investigations are completed. Taliban officials also ruled out the possibility of a pardon and held open the option of execution as a punishment. Foreign-aid groups, vital to the country after 20 years of war and severe drought, will be allowed to continue their work but will be put under tighter surveillance, officials said. (Story, page 6.)
Rampant looting of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe was confirmed by state-owned broadcast outlets, and police said they had recovered "substantial" property. The white agricultural union put losses to militant blacks at $3.8 million so far, including livestock, tractors, fuel, and household appliances, and said at least 300 people had fled for their safety. "About 12" looters were arrested, police said, along with three whites who were trying to recover their belongings - although the latter were freed within hours.
Defying criticism from his political critics and Asian neighbors, Japan's new prime minister visited a controversial Tokyo shrine to military personnel convicted of war crimes and executed by Western allies. Junichiro Koizumi sought to soften the impact by calling the trip private rather than formal and by moving up the date from tomorrow, the anniversary of Japan's 1945 surrender in World War II. But it still brought denunciations by China and South Korea. (Story, page 7.)