THE AMERICAS

Date Set to Install

Quebec Government

QUEBEC CITY -- Liberal Party leader Jean Charest, who defeated the separatist Parti Quebecois in provincial elections this week, said yesterday that his government would be sworn in April 29.

Charest met with Quebec Premier Bernard Landry to discuss the transfer of power. Later he said at a packed news conference that his agenda will be extremely busy over the next two months. "It is a big task," he said.

The Liberal Party, which staunchly supports French-speaking Quebec staying in the Canadian federation, won 76 legislative seats in the election. Parti Quebecois, which has been in power for nine years, took 45 seats, while Mario Dumont's right-wing Action Democratique won four.

Charest, 44, will also unveil his cabinet on April 29. Yves Seguin, a former Liberal cabinet minister under Premier Robert Bourassa, will be named finance minister, news reports said.

Charest said he expects to submit a budget right after the return of the legislature, around May 20. He said the first budget would not include the $690 million in income tax cuts promised during the election campaign.

Reuters

EUROPE

France Advised to Pay

$84 Million to Jews

PARIS -- The French government and French banks should pay $84 million to Jews whose money, property and possessions were seized under France's pro-Nazi Vichy regime during World War II, according to the Commission for the Compensation of Victims of Spoliation.

The government set up the panel in 1999 to examine claims filed by victims or their heirs. The commission said it had recommended that 4,547 people be compensated.

The recommendations are not legally binding, but the commission said on its Web site that the government was committed to following its recommendations.

During the war, occupied France's Vichy regime confiscated the assets of Jews. Legislation was subsequently passed to compensate the victims of the plundering, but it did not ensure full repayment for the losses suffered.

The commission was formed after President Jacques Chirac in 1995 recognized the role of the Vichy regime in the Holocaust and became the first French head of state to formally apologize to the Jewish people.

The commission said it had received almost 14,000 claims for compensation by Jan. 31 this year, mostly from France but also from Israel and the United States.

Reuters

AFRICA

Nigerian Opposition Threatens Action

ABUJA, Nigeria -- President Olusegun Obasanjo's leading challenger in Nigeria's elections threatened to stage "mass action" if officials try to rig Saturday's presidential vote.

Muhamadu Buhari's warning came as anger mounted in opposition ranks about the results of last weekend's parliamentary elections, showing Obasanjo's party far ahead.

"We would like to emphasize that any repeat of the fraud of April 12, a fraud we have rejected in totality, will result in mass action and its consequences, which no one can today foresee," Buhari said at a news conference. He did not elaborate.

The Independent National Electoral Commission admits its performance has been substandard but rejected Buhari's call for a new election.

More than four days after the ballot for the National Assembly, winners have been declared for only 296 of the 360 seats in the House of Representatives. But with 178 seats already won, Obasanjo's People's Democratic Party was certain to get an outright majority.

Reuters

Congo Offers

Amnesty to Rebels

KINSHASA, Congo -- President Joseph Kabila has pardoned rebels who started a war in Congo more than four years ago and must now share power under a peace deal.

But Information Minister Kikaya Bin Karubi said the amnesty, announced late Tuesday, did not cover war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide.

"Taking up arms, allying with a foreign army to invade your own country and trying to topple the recognized government are crimes, but they have been pardoned," Bin Karubi said.

"But as a rebel, you don't need to bury women alive, and you don't need to eat Pygmies. Those are war crimes, and those crimes have not been pardoned," he said.

All the warring sides are accused of committing atrocities during the conflict, which started in August 1998 when rebels backed by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda began their struggle to overthrow the government.

At its peak the conflict dragged in the armies of a half-dozen African countries. An estimated 3 million people died, mostly from hunger and disease.

Reuters