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News Briefs I

First Non-Communist President Constantinescu Elected in Romania

The Washington Post

President Ion Iliescu was soundly defeated Sunday by challenger Emil Constantinescu in a runoff that gave Romania its first non-communist government and completed by ballot a dramatic, democratic, and peaceful revolution.

Early exit polls showed Iliescu seven percentage points behind Constantinescu, a former university rector and the leader of the centrist-right Democratic Convention, in what has been the toughest presidential race here since the fall of communism in 1989.

If the exit poll results hold, Romanians will have historically signaled that they are ready for faster and tougher reforms, which have transformed other East European countries over the past seven years.

Starting with parliamentary elections on Nov. 3 and concluding Sunday night with the presidential runoff, the Romanian government for the first time has broken its ties to its former communist leaders.

Shortly after midnight, tens of thousands of people gathered in the capital's University Square to cheer the new president.

"I'm here to tell you I will never betray you," a glowing Constantinescu said from a balcony overlooking the square. "We are here for the people who fought the guns with their bodies." He vowed that his government would not seek "any revenge" and then appealed to the crowd to pray with him.

Israeli Government Approves Apartment Construction in West Bank

The Washington Post

Israel's Likud government has approved construction of 1,200 apartments in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Emmanuel, its first large building project in the heart of the territory conquered by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

The geography of the unannounced project, approved privately by Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and disclosed Monday by settlement leaders, makes it politically significant. Emmanuel, an ultra-Orthodox settlement now housing 2,000 to 3,000 people, lies well east of Israel's pre-1967 border and nearly astride the only road linking the major Palestinian cities of Nablus and Qalqilyah.

Both those facts give concrete backing to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's stated determination to keep the great majority of the West Bank in Israeli hands. His intention would foreclose any prospect of an unbroken reach of territory under Palestinian rule.

Netanyahu's determination to keep things that way explodes one of the assumptions shared by Palestinian and Israeli negotiators under the Labor Party governments. Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres aspired to annex the most densely populated areas of Jewish settlement along the 1967 border, and they insisted on maintaining military control of the strategic Jordan Valley to the east. But they foresaw a contiguous Palestinian "entity" - and hinted it could be an independent state - covering most of the occupied territory.

Suspect Arrested in Russian Terror Bombing; Death Toll Climbs to 56

Los Angeles Times

Russia's secret police chief announced the arrest of a suspect Monday following a weekend terrorist bombing in the southern city of Kaspiysk, and President Boris N. Yeltsin declared a day of national mourning Tuesday as the death toll climbed to 56.

Investigators have disclosed little about the deadly blast except their suspicions that the bombing was an action by organized criminals aimed at officers of the Russian Border Guard Service who live with their families in the nine-story apartment building devastated by the early Saturday explosion.

The tragedy in the republic of Dagestan has spotlighted both a recent surge in mob violence and Yeltsin's prolonged absence following heart surgery that has repeatedly been touted as successful.

The 65-year-old Russian leader has not been seen or heard by his countrymen in the two weeks since he underwent a quintuple bypass operation. Like dozens of other edicts and addresses, Yeltsin's proclamation Monday of a day of mourning came in written form through his administrative staff.

Rescue workers were still combing through the rubble of the shattered building after dark Monday, as several residents were still unaccounted for three days after the explosion.