News In Brief
An estimated 150,000 Israelis massed in Tel Aviv to tell Prime Minister Ehud Barak they will refuse to accept broad concessions in his peace negotiations with the Palestinians. The protesters, mostly West Bank settlers, called on Barak to return home immediately from the talks in Maryland, insisting he lacks a mandate to "give away the country." Meanwhile, the chief of the militant Islamic Hamas movement also called on Palestinian negotiators to return home, saying his followers would reject any deal with Israel.
Amid a standing ovation by members of parliament, the new president of Syria accepted his oath of office for a seven-year term. Bashar al-Assad pledged in his inaugural speech to free the economy of antiquated laws and a bureaucracy that has stifled growth and kept unemployment at an estimated 20 percent. He also said Syria is "in a hurry" for peace with Israel but not by any infringement of its sovereignty. Bashar succeeded to the office on the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, June 11.
On her wedding anniversary, Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines freed a German tourist they'd held hostage since April 23. Renate Wallert, who reportedly needs medical treatment, was among scores of people seized at gunpoint in a daylight raid on a skin diving resort in neighboring Malaysia. But the rebels refused to release her husband, her son, or any other hostages.
Suggesting that Russia is heading back toward dictatorship, one of its wealthiest men announced he'll quit as a member of parliament tomorrow. Billionaire Boris Berezovsky told the Financial Times he did not want to participate in "the establishment of an authoritarian regime" under new President Vladimir Putin. The tycoon has close ties to former President Boris Yeltsin and is believed to have helped propel Putin into office. But his influence over Putin is seen as waning.
Aides to British Prime Minister Tony Blair were trying to play down the embarrassment caused by a leaked confidential memo that appears to show him obsessed with his public image. Blair angrily ordered a top-level inquiry into how the note reached newspapers, which gave it front-page treatment. It says, in part: "I should be personally associated ... as much as possible" with "eye-catching initiatives" to counter the perception that his Labour government is "out of touch with gut British instincts."
Two more ex-leaders of the so-called doomsday sect Aum Shinri Kyo were sentenced to death for their roles in the 1995 nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway system. The sentences were the second and third of their type in less than a month. Twelve people died in the attack and thousands of others were sickened by the fumes.
A commercial jet on a domestic flight crashed short of the airport in Patna, India, killing at least 55 people, eight of whom apparently were residents of a housing complex one mile from the runway. Aviation Ministry sources said the pilot may have been flying too low.
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