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World and Nation Briefs

In Japan, Fears Rise as Stocks Sink

The Washington Post


The Tokyo stock market continued its two-month free fall this week, with a key stock index now trading more than 23 percent below its mid-September level, as exasperated brokers blasted Japan's new government for failing to take steps to treat the nation's sickly economy.

The Nikkei average of 225 stocks closed at 16,078.71 on Monday, down 4 percent to its lowest level in more than a year.

In Monday's roller-coaster trading, the Nikkei had initially dropped a dizzying 1,054 points in the market's first three hours. The market partially recovered in the afternoon as brokers covering short trades and a few brave investors started buying again. Nonetheless, the average ended the day down 647.66 points from Friday's close -- the largest one-day drop of the year.

The continued stock market decline reinforced fears here about the weakness of the Japanese economy. There was general agreement among market watchers that the current gloom will continue until traders see some clear step by the new prime minister, Morihiro Hosokawa, or the Bank of Japan to boost the overall economy.

Israel-PLO Cease-Fire On West Bank, Gaza Disintegating

Los Angeles Times


The cease-fire between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization is breaking down rapidly as Israeli forces, operating largely undercover and striking through ambushes, hunt fugitive guerrillas on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Challenged on their home turf and embarrassed by the failure of the increasingly controversial pact with Israel to bring immediate peace, PLO units are starting to fight back in daily skirmishes with Israeli patrols.

Without new cease-fire orders from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and rapid progress in the negotiations on implementing the agreement on Palestinian self-government, the clashes appear likely to escalate and spread, seriously jeopardizing the autonomy accord as it comes into effect over the next four months.

After a series of firefights with Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip over the past 10 days, one PLO faction, the Fatah Hawks, declared Monday that it would resume its attacks on Israelis -- civilian as well as military -- in southern Gaza. Israeli forces quickly arrested, after a shootout, a 24-year-old Palestinian they identified as the Hawks commander in southern Gaza.

"The Fatah Hawks promise revenge for the killing of Hawk Ahmed Abu el-Reesh," the group had declared. It called on people to "do everything possible to inflict human losses on the enemy side" and thus protest the death of el-Reesh, who was killed by an Israeli undercover unit Sunday night even though he had surrendered a week earlier and been given amnesty.

Although a formal cease-fire was not part of the autonomy agreement, signed in September, Arafat had ordered all PLO units to halt the "armed struggle" against the Israeli occupation. And Israeli forces had avoided clashes with those PLO supporters after an initial campaign against them.