World Watch

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Women's groups in Spain sued a Muslim imam, Mohammed Kemal Mustafa, accusing him of inciting violence toward women. In his book Women and Islam, the Imam of Fuengirola — on the Costa del Sol, an area with a large Islamic community — gives instructions to husbands on how to beat their wives without leaving marks. He advises, for example, that a beating — administered with a "fine and light" rod — on the feet is better than one around the face because bruises would be less visible. The imam says he was not advising men to beat their wives — just telling them how to do it as a last resort, and under strict guidelines. The Federation of Separated and Divorced Women says the instructions violate the Spanish penal code.

Slobodan Milosevic's rubber-stamp legislature approved a series of laws aimed at enhancing the Serbian leader's powers and allowing him to pursue two more four-year presidential terms. Milosevic now will be able to seek election through a simple majority in a popular vote, set for Sept. 24. Despite Milosevic's decreasing popularity, the weak and fractured Serbian opposition is unlikely to find a candidate who could present a serious poll threat to him. The new measures also significantly reduce the power of Montenegro, Serbia's federation partner. Meanwhile, a Serb journalist — Miroslav Filipovic of the daily Danas — was sentenced to seven years in prison for writing about alleged Yugoslav atrocities in Kosovo.

In an abrupt about-face, the Office of the General Prosecutor dropped embezzlement charges against the media mogul Vladimir Gusinsky. His Media-MOST press and television empire has been sharply critical of Kremlin policies. Gusinsky was formally accused of bilking the state of $10 million and spent three days in prison in recent weeks, before being released under public pressure. As they pursued their inquiry, however, prosecutors restricted Gusinsky's movements and impounded his property. Once charges were dropped, he immediately left Moscow to join his family in Spain. Analysts say the Kremlin offered Gusinsky freedom in exchange for his media softening their criticism, and as a public relations move.

Voters in Ivory Coast approved a new constitution that hopefully will help return the country to civilian rule. Nearly 90% of the voters backed the constitutional changes, which include a requirement that both parents of any presidential candidate be Ivorian. A dispute over the nationality of a leading opposition figure, Alassane Dramane Ouattara, helped spark a coup — the country's first — last December. Since then, the national economy has continued to deteriorate and junior officers in the army have staged at least two unsuccessful rebellions. General Robert Guei, the country's ruler, has said that elections will be held on Sept. 17. He is expected to run.

Port Harcourt
Fire ripped through another oil pipeline in southern Nigeria, killing at least 40 people in the village of Afrokpe. The explosion was the third in two weeks and brought the recent death toll to 350 in the desperately poor but oil-rich Niger Delta. Police were deployed to stop villagers from stealing fuel — a practice known as scooping — from other pipelines. Local politicians have blamed the vandalism on cartels. Once the cartels have siphoned off fuel, impoverished locals move in to collect what they can for sale to passing motorists. But pipelines often explode, and the practice has left about 2,000 people dead in the past two years.

North Korea ended decades of isolation by joining Asia's leading security body, the ASEAN Regional Forum, at its meeting in Bangkok. In a flurry of diplomacy, Foreign Minister Paek Nam Sun held bilateral meetings with counterparts from Asian, Pacific, North American and European nations — including Lee Jong Binn of South Korea. U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright termed her meeting with Paek a "substantively modest but symbolically historic step." North Korea and Japan agreed to resume negotiations on normalizing relations, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il was reported to be planning a visit to Vladivostok to expand ties with Russia. And Canada officially recognized North Korea, 50 years after agreeing to contribute troops to the U.N. force on the peninsula.

A soldier from New Zealand was killed in East Timor, the first combat casualty sustained by U.N. forces since they were deployed in September 1999. Private Leonard Manning died in a firefight with pro-Jakarta militiamen near Suai, close to East Timor's border with Indonesian-ruled West Timor. The death has prompted U.N. officials to shelve plans for an early withdrawal of its peacekeepers from East Timor, where an international force of 8,200 is overseeing security. The territory is under U.N. administration as it prepares for independence after 25 years of Indonesian occupation.

In a series of raids, Fiji's armed forces arrested coup front man George Speight and almost 400 of his supporters, including Colonel Ilisoni Ligairi, who organized the May 19 uprising against the government of Mahendra Chaudhry. The military is considering what charges to press against the ethnic Fijian detainees, who stormed Parliament on May 19 and held dozens of officials for two months, asserting that their culture was being threatened by the country's large ethnic Indian population. President Ratu Josefa Iliolo swore in a new government, led by banker Laisenia Qarase, which excludes Speight supporters.

Six people were killed and dozens injured after protests against President Alberto Fujimori of Peru turned violent. Following earlier, peaceful anti-Fujimori rallies in Lima, police clashed with other demonstrators, some of whom set government buildings ablaze — including the Banco de la NaciĆ³n, where six guards died in the fire. Fujimori's inauguration followed an electoral process marred by allegations of fraud and the withdrawal of international observers. He won the May 28 runoff after his rival, Alejandro Toledo Manrique, refused to take part, saying the contest was rigged. Pledging "to recover democracy, justice and dignity," Toledo announced a new National Democratic Front for Unity. In a bid to defuse criticism of his autocratic style, Fujimori appointed a moderate opposition presidential candidate, Federico Salas, as Prime Minister.

Heading to the polls at the weekend, Venezuelan voters were expected to re-elect popular President Hugo Chávez Frías to a six-year term. Chávez faces Francisco Arias Cardenas, a fellow ex-military man who helped him stage an unsuccessful coup in 1992, but who has since broken ranks with him. Chávez's popularity remains undented after a month of startling revelations, including an alleged plot by a group of disaffected military officers to assassinate him. Since his election in December 1998, Chávez has pushed through a new constitution that curbs Venezuela's traditional political structures — which he argues have fostered decline through corruption and cronyism.

Los Angeles
Federal agents seized 2.1 million tablets of the hallucinogenic drug ecstasy at Los Angeles International Airport. The consignment arrived aboard an Air France flight from Paris in 15 boxes labeled as pencils, pens and writing tablets. Three people, including a South Korean national, were arrested in connection with the case. A fourth suspect, said by authorities to be the ringleader and known for importing the drug from the Netherlands, is still at large. The seizure, said Raymond W. Kelly, commissioner of the U.S. Customs Service, "signals that ecstasy smuggling has reached a new level" and that organized-crime groups are "flooding" the country with the drug. Last year U.S. Customs seized a total of 3.5 million ecstasy tablets.

A Canada-U.S. advisory group warned that eating fish caught in the polluted Great Lakes poses a health hazard and called on both governments to issue strong cautions to consumers. Tens of millions of people live in the basin that feeds into the five lakes. An International Joint Commission report said possible side effects from chemical contamination of the lakes include damage to the neurological systems of children and developing fetuses. The fishing industry in the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater ecosystem, is estimated to be worth about $4 billion each year.