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World in brief

Palestinian leaders to vote on adding prime minister

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 2, 2003

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian leaders moved closer Saturday to amending a law so a prime minister could be appointed -- one of many reforms demanded by the United States and Israel but a change that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat may resist.

The Palestinian Legislative Council agreed to meet this month to amend Palestinian Authority law and create the position of prime minister. Council members also were expected to determine the responsibilities of the new post.

The council would meet between March 8 and 12, said Nabil Abu Rdeneh, an aide to Arafat.

"President Arafat has accepted the idea of nominating a prime minister," Abu Rdeneh said, adding that arrangements are being made with Israeli authorities to allow safe passage for members to meet. It has been more than a year since the council met face-to-face and, because of travel restrictions, some members have had to meet via teleconference.

Israel has said it will allow the meeting but will ban members suspected in attacks against Israelis from attending.

Even if the meeting occurs, deliberations are expected to take some time. And Arafat, who is under increasing international pressure to name a prime minister, might postpone the appointment, a Palestinian Authority official told the Associated Press.

Tax plan leads to collapse of Polish government

WARSAW, Poland -- The left-leaning government that has ruled Poland for just more than a year collapsed Saturday after an emergency meeting between coalition partners broke down in a bitter dispute sparked by a new tax plan.

Prime Minister Leszek Miller said he will ask the president to dissolve the coalition and withdraw two Peasant Party ministers from the government.

He said his ex-communist Democratic Left Alliance party would try to rule as a minority government, seeking to revive the sagging economy if the divided parliament does not force him from office.

"I tried to prevent it," Miller said in a nationally televised address. "It turned out that the government cannot count on the support of the Peasant Party."

Until Saturday, the Peasant Party held the posts of deputy prime minister and the agriculture and environment ministries.

President Aleksander Kwasniewski, who has the power to form and dissolve governments, made no immediate comment.

It was not immediately known whether the opposition will call for a vote of no confidence. Miller's party holds 212 of the 460 seats in parliament.

Hundreds killed, missing as rebels take Congo town

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Hundreds of civilians were killed and hundreds more were missing after Congolese rebels allied with the government seized a key town in northeastern Congo and launched a two-day campaign of murder, rape, looting and destruction, a rival rebel leader said Saturday.

Thomas Lubanga, head of the Union of Congolese Patriots, or UPC, said at least 400 people were killed on Feb. 24-25 and 500 were missing after his troops were pushed from the strategic town of Bogoro during an attack by the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy-Liberation Movement, or RCD-ML, and allied Lendu tribal militiamen. Both groups receive aid from the government of President Joseph Kabila.

There was no way to independently verify the claim; the U.N. mission to Congo, or MONUC, which is aware of the reported killings, said the area is too dangerous for its unarmed military observers to investigate.

Trimble: IRA must discard weapons in public first

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- The Irish Republican Army must scrap its weapons in front of cameras or Protestant witnesses if Northern Ireland's Catholic-Protestant government is to be saved, the province's leading Protestant politician said Saturday.

Ulster Unionist Party chief David Trimble, who faces strong Protestant opposition to working with the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, detailed his conditions for reviving power-sharing as Britain and Ireland pressed behind the scenes for a breakthrough.

The British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, meet Monday to lead negotiations that are being billed as the last chance to repair the Ulster Unionist-Sinn Fein rift before a planned May election.

Britain reportedly will offer new commitments on military cutbacks and police reform in hopes of winning concessions from the IRA, such as more disarmament and a clear-cut statement that the outlawed group has really renounced violence.

Elsewhere . . .

17 DIE IN TAIWAN TRAIN CRASH: A train filled with tourists ran off a bridge near one of Taiwan's most popular mountain resorts Saturday, killing 17 people and seriously injuring 102, officials said.

The locomotive engineer, Su In-fu, said faulty brakes might have caused the four-car train to derail as it descended the mountain, said Luo Jian-hsun, chief prosecutor for Chiayi county.

11 DIE IN RUSSIA PLANE CRASH: A small plane carrying skydivers crashed Saturday in central Russia, killing 11 people. Fourteen people survived, many by parachuting to safety.

The L-410, which belonged to a local flying club, was at about 10,000 feet when it began to break up.

Russian media said the plane's tail fell off and then its left wing. The aircraft crashed into a field near the village of Barki, about 100 miles north of Moscow.

Many of the skydivers were swept out of the plane, officials said. They managed to open their parachutes and land.

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