Cease-Fire Agreement for Congo Gets Closer
LUSAKA, Zambia -- African diplomats edged closer to a cease-fire agreement in Congo's civil war, despite disagreements on how the plan would be carried out.
Regional defense and foreign ministers flew to Zambia to sign off on an agreement. By last night, however, they still had not met because of last-minute wrangling by lower-level officials over the pact.
If defense and foreign ministers approve the cease-fire deal for the 11-month war, the next step would be for rebel representatives and nine regional heads of state to sign it. Soldiers from six African countries are involved in the war, which has destabilized central Africa. Three countries that are not involved -- Zambia, South Africa and Libya -- have been leading efforts to forge a cease-fire accord.
Trimble Demands Arms Pledge From Sinn Fein
LONDON -- The leader of Northern Ireland's largest Protestant party called on the political wing of the Irish Republican Army to ensure that the IRA hands over its weapons by May 2000 or risk wrecking the province's tenuous peace agreement for good.
David Trimble, head of the Protestant Ulster Unionist Party, said that when last-ditch negotiations begin today, he wants Sinn Fein to accept that it is obliged to scrap all weapons by the deadline laid down in last year's Good Friday peace accord.
Sinn Fein chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said the Catholic party was using all its influence to try to persuade the IRA to hand over its arms. "But there is no requirement on the IRA to make a decision this week," he said.
The British and Irish prime ministers will meet feuding Northern Ireland politicians today in a last-gasp bid to save the peace accord. Britain's Tony Blair and Ireland's Bertie Ahern have given the province's rival parties until Wednesday night to break a deadlock over IRA disarmament and agree on the accord's core proposal -- a power-sharing provincial government.
Belgium Declares Pig Farms Off-Limits
BRUSSELS -- Belgian authorities have declared 68 pig farms off limits due to fears the piglets may be born of animals fed with dioxin-laced animal feed, news reports said.
The Ministry of Agriculture ordered the temporary closure of the farms Saturday, two television stations reported. All the farms are located in Flanders in northern Belgium.
Many nations have banned Belgian beef, poultry, pork and byproducts over the past weeks after it was discovered that large quantities had been contaminated by cancer-causing dioxin.
THE MIDDLE EAST
Syria: No Golan Withdrawal, No Peace Deal
DAMASCUS, Syria -- With hopes growing for renewed negotiations, Syria insisted it could not make peace with Israel without the return of the entire Golan Heights.
The election in May of Ehud Barak as Israel's prime minister has raised expectations that long stalled negotiations between Syria and Israel could resume because Barak has expressed a willingness to give back the territory that Israel has occupied since 1967 and later annexed. Syria long has demanded a complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights.
Netanyahu Says Attacks Made Their Point
JERUSALEM -- Israel's outgoing prime minister said he believed Beirut and Damascus got the message from last week's shelling of Lebanon: Israel won't tolerate cross-border guerrilla rocket attacks.
"For the moment at least -- the message has been registered in Lebanon and Syria," Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting.
The air offensive, the heaviest in three years, killed eight people and wounded 64 in Lebanon on Thursday and knocked out power stations, a communications station, bridges and roads. The Hezbollah guerrilla movement based in Lebanon said its initial rocket attacks on Thursday were in retaliation for Israeli bombardments of the southern Lebanese village of Kabrikha that wounded six civilians.
Hussein's Son Shown Without Crutches
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- President Saddam Hussein's eldest son, Uday, was shown on television walking without crutches for the first time since he was shot and seriously injured more than two years ago.
An Iraqi television station owned by Uday Hussein showed pictures of him touring a child care center in Baghdad. When asked about his health, the 34-year-old Hussein said, "the picture explains itself."
India Renews Call for Pakistani Withdrawal
DRAS, India -- India demanded Pakistan withdraw forces battling Indian troops in the disputed Kashmir region before it would hold any peace talks.
The renewed call came as a U.S. envoy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Gibson Lanpher, briefed Indian officials on talks in Islamabad last week in which an American delegation also urged Pakistan to withdraw the fighters.
Indian troops have been battling for the past seven weeks with armed intruders who seized strategic mountain posts on the Indian side of the cease-fire line dividing the Himalayan region between India and Pakistan.
Colombians Demand End to Kidnapping
BOGOTA, Colombia -- Thousands of Colombians marched through driving rain in downtown Bogota waving white flags and banners emblazoned with the words "No More" to call for an end to a rising tide of kidnappings.
This Andean nation has long been saddled with the reputation as the kidnap capital of the world, and last year police reported 2,600 abductions -- about half those blamed on Marxist rebel groups.
The crime, which was up more than 30 percent in 1998, seems set to soar to new heights this year, according to government officials.
FOR THE RECORD
MERSEBURG, Germany -- A bomb hidden in a flower pot exploded outside a restaurant in the eastern city of Merseburg, scattering chunks of stone and other debris. The blast injured 16 people, six of them seriously.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"The sad truth is that Kosovo showed Europe is still not able to solve its own problems. We have to accept the consequences and hope that Europe can grow from this crisis."
-- German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer -- Page A1