World Watch

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Prime Minister Tony Blair faced his toughest political test yet as protests gripped Britain, slowing distribution of gasoline and diesel fuel to a trickle. Military vehicles were ordered to stand by near oil depots to guarantee emergency services. Panic buying stripped supermarket shelves. Protesting farmers and truckers agreed to end their standoff before the public, at first supportive, soured as the strike began to cause serious problems in the economy and in daily life. Gasoline retailers said it would be weeks before supplies were back to normal. Protests against the rising price of fuel also spread to Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Poland and Spain.

French and Spanish police dealt a severe blow to the political structure of the Basque separatist movement eta with the capture in France of its suspected leader, Ignacio Gracia Arregui, two days after the arrests of 20 other alleged leaders in raids across the Basque Country, the province of Navarre and in Madrid. Gracia Arregui is alleged to have ordered an assassination attempt on King Juan Carlos in 1995. On Saturday, shortly before a visit to the Basque town of Hernani by the King, Prime Minister José María Aznar and German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, police discovered eight grenades in the woods nearby. Spanish officials say eta is responsible for the killings of 12 people since January, when the organization broke a 14-month cease-fire.

In the first serious outbreak of violence in Yugoslavia's federal election campaign, supporters of Serb President Slobodan Milosevic forced his main challenger, Vojislav Kostunica, to abandon a campaign rally in Kosovo. In near-riot scenes, demonstrators pelted Kostunica, a university professor, and his convoy with stones, eggs and fruit. In Macedonia, local elections were marred by five shootings, 20 arrests and widespread voter intimidation, according to international monitors. Results of the first round showed the Socialist opposition running neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Ljubco Georgevski, who vowed to call early national elections if his reformist coalition loses by more than 10 percentage points in the final round of voting on Sept. 24. Jerusalem
As the date for the declaration of Palestinian statehood passed, tensions rose between Israel's 1 million Arab citizens and the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak. In Galilee, a leading Arab parliamentarian was put under investigation for allegedly inciting Arabs to riot. Police also arrested 41 Islamists they said had formed a terrorist cell. In Nazareth, Israeli Arabs went on strike to protest lack of police protection. Prime Minister Barak needs the 10 parliamentary seats held by Arab parties to bolster his coalition, but the Arab community has threatened to bring down Barak's government if he doesn't aid local residents.

Britain's Ministry of Defence said the commanding officer of a British Army patrol kidnapped in Sierra Leone three weeks ago made "an error of professional judgment" by taking his men into territory controlled by a local militia. British troops freed seven remaining hostages held by a dissident group, the West Side Boys. One rescuer and 25 militia members died in fighting during the action. Britain said its troops would stay in Sierra Leone, and the United Nations promised to send 7,000 more troops to bolster its peacekeeping force there. Cape TownSouth African President Thabo Mbeki described a spate of bomb attacks as "open terrorism" after the ninth bomb blast in the city this year injured seven people. Western Cape premier Gerald Morkel narrowly escaped injury in the latest blast, which followed a string of attacks including the killing of a leading magistrate in a drive-by shooting. Security Minister Steve Tshwete said police would act decisively against Muslim extremists, whom he held responsible for what he called an Algerian-style terror campaign.

Burma's military authorities lifted restrictions confining opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi to her home. They allowed diplomats and senior members of her party to visit Suu Kyi at the house where she had been under virtual arrest for two weeks. Authorities announced the lifting of the ban on opposition party movements at a meeting with National League for Democracy chairman, U Aung Shwe. Suu Kyi said she planned to test the ruling by traveling outside the capital in the next 10 days.

Indonesia's President ordered the arrest of former President Suharto's son Tommy in connection with an explosion at the Jakarta Stock Exchange building that left 15 people dead and dozens injured. The blast came a day before Suharto was scheduled to appear in court on corruption charges. Violent protests followed his failure to attend the reopening of the trial, now set to resume on Sept. 28. Police confirmed that plastic explosives had been planted in the parking garage of Jakarta's high-rise Stock Exchange building, located in the heart of the capital's business district. Authorities said nine people were being questioned about the blast, the third to hit the capital in two months.

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