World Watch

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Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble postponed a crucial meeting of his party's council, hoping to reverse a well-organized campaign by hard-liners against rejoining Northern Ireland's executive. He had unsuccessfully sought concessions from London, including a reversal of its plan to rename the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Now he must concentrate on selling the virtues of the Irish Republican Army's recent offer to allow inspections of some of its arms dumps, which the I.R.A. promises will begin a process to "completely and verifiably put I.R.A. arms beyond use."

The Austrian government announced a settlement giving one-time payments of $7,000 to former concentration camp inmates forced into labor by the Nazis. The $393.4 million fund will benefit the estimated 150,000 surviving victims. Under pressure from the U.S., Chancellor Wolfgang Scheussel also said a commission of historians would investigate claims by people whose property was seized by the Nazis. The government still faces an $18 billion classaction in New York City filed on behalf of those who claim to have been dispossessed.

In a brazen crackdown on free expression in Serbia, President Slobodan Milosevic ordered the takeover of Studio B, the country's largest opposition television station. The government raided the offices of other independent media outlets, including B2-92 Radio and the daily newspaper Blic. Studio B had been run by the city government of Belgrade, which is controlled by the opposition Serbian Renewal Movement. The crackdown was seen as a response to the growing strength of the anti-government student movement Otpor. In the wake of the government's moves, 30,000 opposition supporters clashed with riot police in Belgrade.

As Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Sweden struggled to reach agreement on the outlines of a peace treaty, the worst skirmishes in four years erupted in the West Bank. Early last week, demonstrators calling for the release of 1,650 Palestinian prisoners clashed with Israeli troops, leading to gun battles which left three Palestinians dead. Further disturbances continued through the week, with another outbreak of live cross-fire on Friday in the Gaza Strip. Prime Minister Ehud Barak said the government's planned handover of three villages near Jerusalem would depend on the Palestinian Authority's ability to curb further violence.

The U.N. reported that as many as 1 million people fled incursions by Ethiopian troops deep into the southwest region of Eritrea. Another 50,000 refugees crossed into Sudan, with thousands more expected to arrive. Ethiopia consolidated its control of the strategic town of Barentu and conducted aerial bombardments on towns along the Eritrean coast, 200 km northeast of the main area of fighting. The crisis threatened international attempts to avert famine for some 16 million people suffering because of a prolonged drought in the region. The U.N. Security Council imposed an arms embargo on both countries for a period of one year.

A force of 800 British paratroopers managed to secure key positions in Freetown, including the Lungi Airport, as international forces continued their standoff with rebels from the Revolutionary United Front. The paratroopers killed four rebels and assisted in the airlift of rebel leader Foday Sankoh, who last week was captured and placed in the custody of the Sierra Leone government. Sankoh's arrest put the R.U.F. on the defensive and the government army, along with bands of irregulars, have stepped up their offensive. The rebels freed some 240 U.N. hostages, but are believed to be holding at least 250 more. The U.N. Security Council voted to increase the size of the peacekeeping force from 11,100 to 13,000.

Tamil rebels renewed their attacks on army defences on the Jaffna peninsula, saying they had captured the strategic Kaithady garrison town, 3 km east of Jaffna city. The government confirmed that 43 soldiers had been wounded and rushed weapons to a northern Jaffna airbase. The Tamil Tigers shelled the airbase, which provides the main supply source for government troops in Jaffna, and there were reports of attacks by Sri Lankan aircraft on rebel artillery positions. The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch expressed concern about the safety of about 500,000 civilians on the Jaffna peninsula, saying shelling by both sides was in violation of international humanitarian law.

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