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A surprisingly strong vote for Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov in Russia's presidential election appeared to have the potential to force a runoff with acting chief of state Vladimir Putin. As the Monitor went to press, exit polls showed support for Putin would reach - but might not exceed - the 50 percent mark. Zyuganov was taking about 28 percent of the vote. To win, a candidate must draw more than 50 percent.

David Trimble, the head of Northern Ireland's main Protestant political party, narrowly survived a challenge to his leadership. But in deciding to keep Trimble over the Rev. Martin Smyth, a strong opponent of the 1998 peace deal with Catholics, the Ulster Unionist Party also angered the British government by voting for a measure that likely will further complicate peace efforts. The UUP demanded that the name of the province's police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, be kept in return for reviving the power-sharing, home-rule administra- tion. Catholics have favored a plan to rename the force the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

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An announcement that OPEC will increase the production of crude oil by up to 1.5 million barrels a day is expected as the cartel prepared to open a long-awaited conference in Vienna today. Such a move would be in an effort to ease rapidly rising prices and avert a potential economic downturn in nations that are heavy importers of crude.

A contingency plan is in place to accommodate up to 20,000 white refugees from Zimbabwe if unrest there escalates, a senior British official confirmed. Takeovers of white-owned farms in Zimbabwe by armed black squatters are in the range of 600, on top of which the country is experiencing its worst economic crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1980. Zimbabwe's top court ruled the takeovers illegal and ordered police to evict the squatters. But President Robert Mugabe told CNN the invasions would not be stopped unless they became violent.

Contradicting earlier reports, the Supreme Court of Rwanda appointed Tutsi Vice president Paul Kagame as interim chief of state, rather than the expected choice, parliament Speaker Vincent Biruta. The move appeared to pave the way for Kagame to win the post outright when parliament and the Cabinet choose a new president, a process that must be completed within one month. Kagame previously had been reluctant to assume the presidency so as not to antagonize Rwanda's Hutu minority, many of whom already believe that Tutsis control the country. President Pasteur Bizimungu, a Hutu, resigned under pressure late last week.

A new political coalition that could pose a strong challenge to Canada's ruling Liberals was OK'd by the Reform Party, the largest opposition group in Parliament. The move unites the once deeply divided right under the banner of the Canadian Alliance. The Reform and Conservative parties have split the anti-Liberal vote in the past two national elections. Canadians are expected to go to the polls next in 2001.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society


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