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Can democracy and Islam mix in Iran? A mighty power struggle between clerics - reformers and conservatives - is being played out in the courts.

Indonesia has its own tussle of epic proportions. Jakarta says it's considering an independence referendum for the province of Aceh (AH-chay) - where 1 million people held a rally this week.

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If the complexity of the Middle East peace process seems daunting, check out the primer on the final status talks.

- David Clark Scott, World editor


*NOT MUCH HISTORY HERE: Jerusalem-based Ilene Prusher drove the 30 minutes from her home to cover the start of the final-status talks at a West Bank hotel. She hoped to snag a negotiator on the way in for a quote or a meaningful nuance. "It was also a historic moment, so I felt I should be there," says Ilene. But as at many such events, the participants were brought in early through a back door. The media horde (about 150 showed up) was allowed in for two minutes of photos only. Attempts to shout questions were ignored. The Israeli leadership has said it doesn't want the agreement negotiated in the media. "As a politician or a negotiator, I would feel the same way," says Ilene. "But as a journalist, it's frustrating."

*IN TEHRAN, AN OPEN DOOR: The Ministry of Islamic Guidance gave journalists approval to visit the Special Court for Clergy. The Monitor's Scott Peterson took a taxi to a neighborhood thick with mansions. He stopped in front of a modest gate with several young soldiers. "This is it?" Scott asked, expecting an official court building. It was, however, grand: A palatial duplex, despite several empty swimming pools and expansive gardens, had been turned into a prayer area. A side entrance led to the most important "court" in Iran. "We don't often get access to things like this," says Scott, "but somebody obviously wanted to turn this into an open forum. We are functionaries in this whole battle."

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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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