Macedonia legislators tentatively approve peace plan...

FOREIGN DIGEST

September 25, 2001

Macedonia legislators tentatively approve peace plan reforms

SKOPJE, Macedonia - Macedonia's parliament reluctantly approved in principle yesterday 15 constitutional amendments underpinning a peace agreement with ethnic Albanian guerrillas, as NATO prepared a security force to shore it up.

The draft amendments were passed by simple majorities, sometimes the bare minimum, well short of the two-thirds margin they will require when submitted for final ratification next month after 10 days of debate.

Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian rebels brought in weapons by the carload, fulfilling - two days early - their half of a peace deal to hand over 3,300 arms in exchange for greater rights.

Separatist violence leaves 20 dead in Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India - Twenty people have died in separatist violence in Indian Kashmir in 24 hours, but officials say guerrilla violence has eased as Muslim fighters head for Afghanistan to prepare for a possible U.S. attack.

A dozen rebel groups including fighters from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other Islamic countries are fighting Indian rule in the country's only Muslim-majority state.

China executes man blamed for deadly fireworks blast

BEIJING - A man blamed for the explosion of a cache of illegal fireworks that killed at least 47 people in a farming village in Shaanxi province was executed in China yesterday, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Ma Hongqing's execution comes during an intensified anti-crime campaign in China that includes a mandate for faster investigations and more liberal use of the death penalty. Crimes involving explosives are among the main targets of the campaign.

Sri Lanka's ruling alliance survives first major test

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - Parliament voted yesterday to change the constitution to introduce key democratic reforms, handing the new ruling alliance a victory in its first major test since being formed.

A radical Marxist party, which has agreed to prop up the minority government for one year, had said the reforms were a condition for its support.

The main opposition United National Party voted for the bill, giving the government the two-thirds majority needed to change the constitution and bring in the reforms to put various arms of the state under independent commissions.

Russian grain harvest already exceeds forecast

MOSCOW - Russia has harvested 84.7 million tons of grain so far this year - already above the forecast for 2001 and likely enough to allow resumed exports for the first time in years, officials said yesterday.

The harvest figure exceeds last year's crop at this time by 15.4 million tons, the Interfax and Itar-Tass news agencies quoted Agriculture Ministry officials as saying. Farmers have harvested grain from only about 80 percent of land so far.

Russia suffered its lowest grain harvest in decades in 1998 - 52.6 million tons - and was forced to ask for large shipments of food aid from the United States and the European Union. The 1999 harvest was 60.2 million tons, and last year's was 71.9 million tons.

20 stand trial in Argentina in 1994 Jewish center blast

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Fifteen former police officers and five others went on trial yesterday, accused of aiding in the bombing of a Jewish cultural center in the Argentine capital in 1994.

None of those on trial has been charged with involvement in the attack, only with supplying the stolen van used as a bomb that killed 86 people.

Authorities won't say if their investigation is close to finding those who planned and financed the bombing, except to acknowledge that the probe extends beyond Argentina's borders. The attack came two years after a bomb wrecked the Israeli Embassy and killed 22 people. That bombing also remains unsolved.

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