THE MIDDLE EAST
Syrian Leader in Moscow, Seeking Weapons
MOSCOW -- Syrian President Hafez Assad came to Moscow yesterday for talks on upgrading his military with Russian weapons.
Assad will discuss the possible purchase of Su-27 fighter jets, T-80 tanks and antitank and antiaircraft weapons, the Interfax news agency reported. Syria was a major market for Soviet weapons during the Cold War.
Iran Objects to U.S. Criticism of Arrests
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iran denounced the United States for objecting to the arrest of 13 people, including Jews, on spying charges.
"No country has the right to interfere in Iran's internal affairs," Tehran television quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi as saying.
On Friday, State Department spokesman James Foley said the charges against the Jews, who include rabbis and religious teachers, "are unfounded and unacceptable."
Suicide Bomber Injures 14 in Turkey
ISTANBUL -- A suspected Kurdish rebel detonated bombs strapped to her body, killing herself and injuring 14 people near a police station in the southern city of Adana, a news agency said. On Sunday, a bomb exploded in a crowded Istanbul park, killing one person and injuring 25. Police also blamed that blast on Kurdish rebels.
The rebel Kurdish Workers' Party threatened to escalate violence after their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was condemned to death by a Turkish court last week. Defense lawyers appealed the sentence yesterday.
Barak Says Peace Is Top Priority
JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak, presenting his new government to his Labor Party comrades, said making peace with Arab neighbors will be its top priority.
"We received the responsibility to lead the country to peace and security. . . . There is no goal in my opinion more central than this one: to strengthen Israel's security by ending the 100-year conflict in the Middle East," he said.
Barak, who spent the last seven weeks forging a coalition after being elected on May 17, will become prime minister today when he presents his government to parliament.
Russian Troops Attack Chechen Rebels
MOSCOW -- Russian troops backed by helicopter gunships and mortars attacked a group of alleged Chechen rebels, killing several militants two days after Moscow threatened preemptive strikes against suspected guerrillas.
Russia has started to get tough with Chechnya in response to violence that has raged in the breakaway republic and surrounding regions since the 1994-96 war for independence.
Greens Threaten To Leave German Coalition
BERLIN -- Some leaders of the Greens environmental party threatened to walk out of Germany's coalition government over the country's slow pace in scrapping nuclear energy.
Party leaders warned that without the quick closure of the nation's 19 remaining nuclear plants, the party would have to reevaluate its part in the nine-month-old coalition. But other Greens leaders rushed to play down the dispute.
Flawed Chinese Nuclear Plant Repaired
BEIJING -- China shut down a nuclear power plant one year ago because of structural flaws and hired Westinghouse Electric Co. to help repair it, Chinese officials said. The plant is expected to resume power production later this year.
Chinese officials at the Qinshan nuclear power plant in central Zhejiang province said no radiation leaked from the facility. The Japanese news service, Kyodo, reported Sunday that radioactive material leaked into the cooling waters when guide pipe bolts fell off.
China Sentences Labor Rights Campaigners
BEIJING -- A Chinese court sentenced three labor rights campaigners to prison terms ranging from two to 10 years for subversion, a human rights group said.
Yue Tianxiang, Guo Xinmin and Wang Fengshan were members of the China Democracy Party, an outlawed group set up by dissidents to challenge the Communist Party's monopoly on power.
Strike Plunges Ecuador Into Emergency
QUITO, Ecuador -- Ecuador declared a state of emergency after striking taxi drivers blocked traffic in major cities to protest gas price increases.
Police detained 43 drivers who had formed blockades here in the capital and in Guayaquil, snarling traffic and forcing thousands of people to wait for the few buses that circulated. Drivers dispersed, only to reassemble the roadblocks later.
The state of emergency gives police special arrest powers and allows them to use force to clear the streets. The strike occurs as this nation of 12 million people faces its worst economic crisis in decades.
U.N. Tries to Curb Gem Smuggling in Angola
LUANDA, Angola -- The United Nations has moved to clamp down on illicit diamond smuggling by Angola's rebel UNITA movement by demanding that all gems leaving the war-torn southern African state be certified, state radio said.
The new measure is part of a package that Robert Fowler, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the sanctions committee, devised after a 17-day trip to southern Africa in May to assess prospects for limiting UNITA's capacity to wage war.
U.S. Urges African Economic Cooperation
DURBAN, South Africa -- A U.S. deputy secretary of commerce chided southern African countries for balking at economic cooperation. His remarks drew a rebuke from South Africa's trade minister, who called for more debt relief.
The U.S. official, Robert Mallett, told an economic conference that members of the Southern African Development Community should integrate their economic and trade policies. "The global economy is here," Mallett said.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"You Americans want to get rid of Milosevic? So do we."
Nenad Canak, a leader of the League
of Social Democrats in Novi Sad -- Page A9