News In Brief
Weapons searches were suspended and a curfew was relaxed in an effort to restore calm to Kosovo's most ethnically divided city. NATO-led peacekeepers took the steps a day after using tear gas and armored personnel carriers to keep angry Serb and ethnic-Albanian groups from clashing on a river bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica. At the UN in New York, US Ambassador Richard Holbrooke accused the Yugoslav government of President Slobodan Milosevic of fomenting the unrest.
Ratcheting up the pressure, the government of China said it "is natural for us to have a sense of urgency" over reunification with Taiwan. The pronouncement came one day after release of a "white paper" threatening military action against the island nation if talks on unification do not begin soon. But defense analysts said the Beijing government will continue to lack the muscle to launch a full-scale invasion of Taiwan for at least five years. And Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council said the "continual denial of the existence of the Republic of China" would only "create more trouble" and "make relations more tense."
Hundreds of heavily armed soldiers were shutting down an important industrial city in northern Nigeria, where street brawls over the introduction of Islamic law killed at least 20 people. All businesses in Kaduna were ordered closed, a dusk-to-dawn curfew was in force, and access to the city was denied to visitors after rival Christian and Muslim demonstrators attacked each other. Christians make up only about 40 percent of the population in Kaduna state, which is considering adoption of the rigid code known as sharia.
Hefty new increases in the price of automobile fuels and a package of tax increases were announced by Indonesia's government, bringing immediate protests from union leaders. Citing the need to cut its huge budget deficit, the government raised fuel prices by as much as 10 percent and electric rates by up to 29 percent, with other levies on products such as cement and cigarettes. To soften the impact, it also promised a 55 percent hike in the minimum wage. But the moves caused a 1.6 percent drop in the main stock index, amid concerns that the increases would worsen inflation and social unrest.
A historic lawsuit seeking to recover the costs of treating ill smokers was dealt a major setback in Canada when a court ruled it invalid. The suit, modeled after those filed by more than 40 US states, was Canada's first. But in Vancouver, the court found the province of British Columbia had exceeded its constitutional authority in grouping all cigarettemakers, including their parent companies, into one entity. The suit did not seek specific damages, but the province claims to spend almost $500 million a year on smoking-related illnesses.
Two weeks of flooding that already has washed away the homes of more than 200,000 people in Mozambique appeared certain to worsen with the arrival of a cyclone and its accompanying heavy rains. At least 48 people were reported dead.
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