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Non-Communist political parties scored their strongest victories in post-Soviet Russia, capturing more than half the seats in the lower house of parliament. With 20 percent of the vote yet to be counted, the pro-Kremlin Unity party was just 0.7 points behind the Communists as the largest in the powerful Duma. Analysts warned, however, that the centrist groups may have trouble forming a workable alliance since some of their leaders are rivals for the Russian presidency next year.

Only if Lebanon is included, will the government of Syria sign a peace deal with Israel, Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa warned. In his first public comments since representing Syria at the opening of resumed negotiations with Israel last week, al-Sharaa said he expected Israeli-Lebanese talks also would be reactivated early next year. He said Syria, which has 35,000 troops stationed in Lebanon, would cooperate fully with the Beirut government once talks resume but would not negotiate in its behalf. Lebanon is demanding unconditional Israeli withdrawal from its territory.

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A little over a month before Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to agree on the outlines of a permanent peace treaty, the latter rejected a proposal for final borders based on the Jewish state's "security needs." Israeli negotiators reportedly did not suggest where lines should be drawn, only the principles they wanted included in the deal, plus a demand for continued sovereignty in Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza. The two sides are to resume talks next week.

With the arrival of 700 Army troops, hopes rose in Macau for an early end to the violence and crime that have wracked the ex-Portuguese enclave for years. The soldiers were welcomed by thousands of cheering residents in the hours following the formal handover of the colony to Chinese President Jiang Zemin Sunday. After returning to Beijing, Jiang and Premier Zhu Rongji told a gala celebration of the Macau transfer that China now would set its sights on recovering Taiwan "at an early date."

A sizable sympathy vote is expected for incumbent President Chandrika Kumaratunga as Sri Lankans go to the polls today following the assassination attempt that injured her last weekend. Analysts said the incident could even seal her reelection over challenger Ranil Wickremesinghe in what had been a tight race. The president was released from a Colombo hospital under massive security, but it was not clear whether she would cast her own ballot.

In the span of 24 hours, authorities in Venezuela upped the number of deaths from last week's flash floods and mudslides from "more than 500" to "at least 10,000," surpassing the casualties late last year in nearby Central America from hurricane Mitch. Another 156,000 were reported homeless or are considered missing. President Hugo Chvez took personal charge of rescue and cleanup operations, and his wife, Marisabel, opened their official residence to children orphaned by the disaster.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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