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Legislation transferring self-rule powers to Northern Ireland was rushed through Parliament in London and given the official seal of Queen Elizabeth II in a two-minute ceremony. The historic handover would take place at midnight Wednesday, officials said. Amid the formalities, however, the Irish Republican Army distributed a statement expressing "very serious" concern at the "clear departure" of Protestant leaders from the self-rule formula by repeating demands for the surrender of weapons as of February or they'd pull out of the government.

Residents of an eastern suburb of Chechnya's capital sent envoys to plead with Russian invasion forces to stop shelling because they had chased away Islamic rebels using the town as a base. The invaders are attempting to surround the capital, Grozny, to cut the rebels off from their bases in the region's southern mountains.

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A petition alleging that Yasser Arafat and his Cabinet are corrupt was condemned by the Palestinian Legislative Council. But, meeting behind closed doors, the council stopped short of lifting the immunity from arrest of members who signed the document. It decided instead to "monitor the behavior" of the nine signers from its own ranks. Meanwhile, thousands of chanting demonstrators marched in support of Arafat in the West Bank city of Ramallah, punctuated by rounds of automatic weapons fire from masked gunmen on nearby rooftops.

The surprise announcement by Basque separatists that they will resume hostilities in Spain after tomorrow is not being regarded as a bluff, the government's interior minister said. He warned of possible violence as soon as this weekend but said the group known as ETA (Basque Homeland and Liberty) is weaker than in past years when it has targeted soldiers, police, and key politicians via shootings and car-bomb attacks. Pacifist groups opposed to ETA violence planned a protest in the coastal city of San Sebastian tonight.

A "sincere apology" for the March 1995 poison-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system and others that followed was offered by the so-called doomsday cult Aum Shinri Kyo. In a statement, the group's acting leader also pledged "as much compensation as possible" to the victims of its attacks and their survivors. Aum Shinri Kyo's best-known assault killed 12 people and made thousands of others ill. Some survivors called the apology "too late" and designed to blunt police monitoring of the resurgent group's activities.

"We proved once more that we are disunited [and] ruled by hatred and violence," an angry Romanian President Emil Constantinescu complained after thousands of people booed and jeered him at National Day celebrations. He shifted a nationally televised speech indoors at Alba Iulia, where the modern Romanian state was proclaimed in 1918, but it was not clear whether that was because of the incident. Sporadic protests over the nation's low standard of living and soaring inflation rate have increased in recent weeks as it approaches the 10th anniversary of the fall of communism.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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