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News Briefs I

Indian Ruling Party Concedes Defeat

The Washington Post

The ruling Congress party, which has dominated the politics of independent India for nearly five decades, conceded defeat Thursday in national elections that appeared to give the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party the largest number of seats in Parliament.

While the leadership and composition of the next government remained uncertain, the results were seen here as a stunning defeat for the party of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and virtually all of India's leaders over the past half-century.

"We accept defeat. There is no denial of this fact that people have rejected us," conceded Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who directed the party's losing campaign.

Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao informed President Shankar D. Sharma Thursday evening he would resign Friday after discussing the election results with party leaders.

State television projected on the second day of vote-counting that the BJP, currently the main opposition, would capture 175 to 185 seats in the 545-member Parliament.

Congress, which now leads a minority government with 260 seats, was forecast to lose half its strength and possibly finish third behind both the BJP and a loose coalition of leftist parties - its poorest showing in a parliamentary election.

Yeltsin Rival Willing to Join Forces

The Washington Post

Boris Yeltsin, trailing in most polls ahead of next month's presidential election, received a boost Thursday after his chief democratic rival said he might be willing to join forces with the president in a pro-reform coalition.

Grigory Yavlinsky, 44, a liberal economist who could siphon several million votes away from Yeltsin if he runs in the June 16 election, said he might be ready to swing a deal with Yeltsin if the Russian leader shakes up his cabinet, ends the war in Chechnya and reshapes economic reforms.

"The issue we are going to discuss would be a first in Russian history: a political coalition between the government and democratic opposition," Yavlinsky told the BBC late Wednesday.

If Yavlinsky were to support Yeltsin's re-election bid, it would be a significant shot in the arm for the Russian leader.

One key Yeltsin campaign aide said last week that the campaign's polling shows support for the president has leveled off in second place behind the Communist candidate, Gennady Zyuganov.

Court Prepares to Hear Closing Arguments in Online Porn Case


A federal court plans to wrap up hearings Friday on the constitutionality of a new law to restrict indecent material on the Internet, but a Christian activist group already has found what it thinks is the perfect first case if the law is upheld.

The American Family Association, of Tupelo, Miss., filed a complaint with the Justice Department in March about an adult forum on the online service CompuServe, saying it is a violation of the Communications Decency Act, which Congress passed in February.

Last week, the Justice Department responded that it would turn the case over to the FBI "for review." The department has agreed not to investigate or prosecute cases under the new law while the court challenge was pending, so it was careful to use the word "review" rather than "investigate."

CompuServe spokesman Jeff Shafer said that the online service provides parental blocking mechanisms for such material and that, in any case, holding the company responsible for the content "would be like holding a phone company responsible for a prank phone call."

But Patrick Trueman, the Christian association's director of governmental affairs, said CompuServe has violated the law by "making the material available to anyone it was available to members under 18 years old."