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News Briefs 1

U.S. Sees Rise in Haitian Refugees

The Los Angeles Times

U.S. authorities have moved to return hundreds of fleeing Haitians to their homeland over the last several days as uncertainty over next month's election and an eruption of violence on the island trigger a refugee exodus of the kind unseen since that nation's 1994 political crisis.

Sunday, a vessel loaded with 581 Haitian refugees was stopped off the coast of Andros Island in the Bahamas on its way to Florida. Another overloaded craft sank, drowning 47. In all more than 1,100 Haitians have been interdicted at sea in the last week.

Although U.S. State Department officials expressed concern about the sudden jump in Haitians attempting to flee their homeland, spokesman Nicholas Burns said "the number does not represent the kind of crisis that we have seen in the past ... and we certainly hope that this situation will not come to that."

Nonetheless, the number of Haitians found aboard just two boats -- both apparently operated by smugglers -- is the highest since the chaotic summer of 1994, when tens of thousands of Haitians and Cubans attempted to reach Florida in rafts and sailboats, and more than the total stopped in the 11 months since President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was returned to power.

In addition to the 581 Haitians rescued from a 75-foot wooden-hulled freighter Sunday, the Coast Guard last Tuesday stopped a similar freighter 140 miles southwest of Miami. That boat was packed with 516 Haitians who reported paying smugglers up to $3,000 apiece for standing room on a voyage from Cap Haitien on the north coast.

A third boat overloaded with Haitians bound for the U.S. reportedly capsized over the weekend off the coast of Port-de-Paix.

Since October 1994, when U.S. military forces cleared the way for Aristide's triumphant return to Haiti, the number of Haitians attempting to illegally enter the U.S. by sea has dropped off markedly. Between October 1994 and last month, the Coast Guard reports interdicting 997 Haitians at sea. By comparison, in July 1994 alone more than 16,000 Haitians were picked up.

Report Says 200,000 Russian Clerics Were Slain in Soviet Era

The Baltimore Sun

About 200,000 clerics were slain during the Soviet era, many of them strangled, shot, crucified, or slowly frozen to death after being drenched with water and sent into the winter cold, a Russian government commission reported Monday.

President Boris N. Yeltsin will issue decrees "rehabilitating" the 500,000 clerics who were officially repressed by being killed or jailed, said Alexander Yakovlev, chairman of Yeltsin's commission for the rehabilitation of the victims of political repressions. Religious repression also will be declared criminal, he said.

Government archives have yielded ample evidence of Communist confiscation of millions of dollars worth of church valuables and land in the Soviet Union, Yakovlev said.

"Local authorities will probably be instructed to participate in restoration of church property to the extent that they can," he said .

Key Israeli Opposition Party Accepts Peace Accord

Los Angeles Times

A key opposition party said Monday that it accepts the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord as an irreversible fact and is negotiating an agreement to support the Labor Party from outside the ruling coalition.

The National Religious Party issued a statement after a stormy session Monday night backing its chairman's declaration that the party must reassess its political platform in the wake of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's Nov. 4 assassination.

The statement said that the NRP -- which has six seats in Parliament -- and Labor have reached a draft agreement under which the NRP will abstain from parliamentary no-confidence motions brought against the left-wing Labor-led government.

In return, Labor is prepared to consult with the NRP before carrying out the unspecified "further redeployments" from the West Bank that the government promised, in its agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization, to make next year.

The NRP insisted in its statement that it still opposes the September 1993 Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in principle but that "nevertheless, the NRP's view is that any future government will not wage war in order to go back to the cities which we left unless security circumstances or severe violations will necessitate a reaction."