News In Brief
"It will take a minimum of two years" to put the Philippines back on its feet, a key aide to new President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo contended as she assembled the economic-adviser team for her government. She was sworn in Saturday after the Supreme Court ruled Joseph Estrada no longer was in control of the nation's highest office. Estrada (above, fleeing the presidential palace by barge with his wife, Luisa) ultimately relented on a vow not to leave after tens of thousands of protesters converged on his residence.
A new round of Middle East talks opened at an Egyptian resort, but with both sides sticking to familiar posturing. Caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak, hoping a peace deal will boost his popularity before Israel's Feb. 6 election, issued a statement maintaining Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Temple Mount. Palestinian negotiators repeated vows that they would not be rushed into any deal. The talks, expected to take up to 10 days, follow months of violence in which at least 309 Palestinians, 45 Israelis, and 13 Israeli Arabs have been killed.
An elaborate state funeral was being prepared for tomorrow in Congo for assassinated President Laurent Kabila, to be followed by the swearing-in of his son as successor. The elder Kabila's remains were flown home from Zimbabwe, where he was taken last week in the hope that doctors could help him recover from bullet wounds reportedly inflicted by a bodyguard. Little is known of his son, Joseph Kabila, other than - at 31 - he's the top general in the Army.
Ex-dictator Augusto Pinochet is due for questioning today by his would-be judge in Chile in the final step of a process to determine whether he's fit to stand trial for alleged human rights abuses during his 17-year rule. Last week examining physicians reported that he showed signs of "light to moderate dementia." By law, such persons are considered not responsible for criminal acts. Judge Juan Guzman has said only that "we are at a very delicate moment and must be extremely prudent."
A diesel-oil spill threatened the wildlife of the ecologically fragile Galapagos Islands, where Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution in 1835. US Coast Guard experts were en route to the scene at the request of Ecuador's government to help with what experts said would be a tricky cleanup. A tanker carrying 240,000 gallons capsized last week half a mile from one of the islands. So far, about one-tenth of that amount has been recovered.
The rock-bottom popularity of Japanese leader Yoshiro Mori appeared likely to take another hit amid reports that his economics minister would resign due to alleged influence-peddling. Fukushiro Nukaga acknowledged an aide had taken $128,000 from a business group already embroiled in another bribery scandal but said he soon returned the money. He'd be the third Cabinet member to quit since Mori became prime minister last April.
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