World Watch

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After talks with Northern Ireland's main political parties, U.S. President Bill Clinton offered his blueprint for "giving practical effect ... to the promise of peace." He called on Britain to live up to its pledges on police reform and military cutbacks, and said the Irish Republican Army must put its arms "beyond use." Ulster politicians credited the President with reviving talks, but there was no big breakthrough. In a separate development, rival Protestant paramilitary groups declared an end to a feud that has cost seven lives since August.

The "morning-after" pill is to be sold in pharmacies in the U.K. by late January. The hormone-based drug, which prevents pregnancy if taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, is thought to work by inhibiting ovulation, fertilization or implantation. The British Medical Association urged that it should also be on sale to girls under 16, the legal age of consent. The drug will retail for around $30 but will remain free of charge on prescription for women of all ages, including under-16s.

Eight years after the beginning of the siege of Sarajevo, Yugoslavia and Bosnia are establishing diplomatic ties. Previous approaches had foundered on former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's stipulation that Bosnia drop charges of aggression against Belgrade before the International Court of Justice in the Hague. Bosnia will continue pressing that case despite the détente. Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic and his Bosnian counterpart, Jadranko Prlic, said that the two countries expect to work out agreements on trade, traffic and customs within the next few weeks and proposed a meeting with Croatia to discuss the return of refugees.

Imrali Island
Jailed Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan won the right to have his case against Turkey heard at the European Court of Human Rights. Ocalan was sentenced to death in June 1999 for leading the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (P.K.K.) and causing the deaths of thousands during 16 years of armed conflict. He claims Turkey has violated 12 articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, including guaranteeing the right to a fair trial. Turkey has promised to put on hold the review of his execution until the court has issued a ruling, expected in several months. Turkey must abolish the death penalty before it can join the E.U.

The power station that caused the world's worst nuclear accident in 1986 was closed down for the last time on Friday. Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma gave the order from Kiev, 135 km away. Though Ukrainians are safe from further incidents, the station's 6,000 employees are out of work. The 1986 disaster, which spread a radioactive cloud over Europe and much of the world, caused around 30 immediate deaths and led to fatalities from several forms of cancer in Ukraine and Belarus.

Israel and Hizballah, the Islamist militia in Lebanon, are negotiating a prisoner exchange. Working through German mediators, Israel is seeking the return of three soldiers and a reserve colonel captured in October. Hizballah is demanding the return of 19 Lebanese. They include Mustafa Dirani, a militia intelligence officer lifted in 1994 as a bargaining chip for Ron Arad, an Israeli airman missing since he bailed out over Lebanon in 1986. Israel insists on Arad's release as part of the deal.

Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement formally ending a two-and-a-half-year border war that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people and displacement of hundreds of thousands more. Some 4,000 U.N. peacekeepers will patrol the disputed territory until an Organization of African Unity commission establishes an agreed border between the two countries. Ethiopia said it will not restore normal relations with Eritrea until there is a change of government there. Fighting ended with a June cease-fire.JohannesburgAn international agreement to reduce the use of dangerously toxic pollutants and ultimately eliminate their production was endorsed by representatives of 122 nations. The treaty, negotiated by the United Nations Environment Program, set up a global strategy to control the production, trade, use and disposal of persistent organic pollutants. Of 12 such substances that have been identified as the worst, nine are to be banned immediately. The agreement will be signed in Stockholm in May.

Burmese Foreign Minister Win Aung hinted that dissident Aung San Suu Kyi might soon be released from house arrest. Diplomats attending a meeting of ministers from the European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said they expected Suu Kyi would be released before an E.U. delegation investigating human rights visits Burma in January. Suu Kyi and other leaders of her party were detained by the military government Sept. 21 to prevent them from meeting supporters outside the capital, Rangoon. A day after Win Aung's comments, Suu Kyi was allowed her first visitor. TokyoJapan confirmed that ousted Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori holds Japanese citizenship and thus can stay in the country indefinitely. As a result, Fujimori cannot be extradited to face possible corruption charges in Peru, but his presidency may have been unconstitutional. Fujimori's Japanese parents registered his birth in the Japanese consulate in Lima in 1938, but he claimed Peruvian nationality and denied holding dual citizenship. He announced his resignation after arriving in Tokyo last month. Peru's Congress has declared him morally unfit for office.

For the first time in the impeachment trial of Joseph Estrada, a prosecution witness directly linked the Philippine President to illegal gambling payoffs. In her second day on the witness stand, Emma Lim, secretary to whistle-blowing Governor Luis Singson, claimed to have delivered $100,000 in cash from gambling payoffs to Estrada's secretary on Singson's instructions. Perhaps to rally support, Estrada said he will certify a bill pending in Congress to ban the death penalty. He also released nine prisoners and plans to free 235 others. On Friday the Supreme Court Chief Justice ordered the unsealing of bank records that may disclose a copy of a check allegedly used to buy a mansion for a mistress of Estrada's.

More than 160 illegal immigrants to Australia are feared dead after two boats that set sail from Indonesia in stormy weather two weeks ago sank on their way to Ashmore Reef, off Western Australia. Immigration authorities believe some 2,000 people have arrived in Australia illegally by boat since January despite the perils. It's estimated that a third of the vessels bound for Ashmore Reef, a regular destination for people smugglers, have disappeared en route.

General Motors, the world's largest vehicle company, announced that it was responding to lower worldwide sales by closing production facilities in Europe and North America and eliminating its famed Oldsmobile brand. GM's European subsidiaries, which lost $181 million in the third quarter, will reduce production by 400,000 cars by 2004. More than 5,000 jobs will be lost in Europe as part of GM's worldwide plan to shed 4% of its workforce. GM Europe will cease production of its Vectra mid-sized auto by early 2002 and phase out all production at its plant in Luton, England. The Olds, first produced around a century ago, was mourned by American car enthusiasts, while in Luton 200 chanting workers protested possible job losses.

Chile's Supreme Court was scheduled to hear an appeal on Dec. 18 against a ruling to block the arrest of General Augusto Pinochet Ugarte. Lawyers representing the ex-dictator, who in late November was ordered to stand trial on kidnap and murder charges for offenses allegedly committed during his 17-year rule, successfully argued that Pinochet had the right to an interrogation prior to arrest. Judge Juan Guzmán said the general responded to an interrogation when under house arrest in London from October 1998 to last February and pleaded not guilty. More than four months ago, the Supreme Court stripped Pinochet of his legal immunity on the grounds that there is evidence for an investigation into his criminal responsibility.