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News Briefs I

U.S. Considers Congo Mission To Speed Rights Investigation

The Washington Post

The United States is considering sending a high-level mission to Congo in an effort to break a six-week deadlock between President Laurent Kabila and a U.N. human rights team that has been prevented from investigating alleged massacres of refugees.

Sources said that if Washington goes ahead with the plan, the mission would be headed by a special envoy with strong credentials for influence and expertise in African affairs, possibly a member of Congress or someone not serving in government. They said a decision was expected from Washington within one or two days.

According to the sources, Secretary General Kofi Annan SM '72 has agreed to give the mission two weeks to see what it can accomplish before the U.N. determines whether to withdraw the rest of its investigating team. The U.S. mission would seek talks with Kabila and would visit other countries in the region such as Uganda, Angola and Rwanda. These countries helped Kabila's rebels in their successful campaign to overthrow longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko last May, and the U.S. mission would seek their aid in influencing Kabila.

The U.S. initiative arose in discussions between U.S. officials and Annan, whose difficulties in gauging Kabila's intentions about cooperating with the investigation caused him Wednesday to order the four team leaders to New York for consultations. Annan acted in the wake of reports from the Reuters news agency and an African-based agency that Kabila had called for the U.N. team to leave the country.

Magnets Detected Inside Mars Crust

The Washington Post

The orbiting Mars Global Surveyor has detected powerful magnetic objects buried in the crust of the Red Planet and unexpectedly dramatic features such as a vast Sahara-like expanse of stunningly flat terrain that may have been the floor of an ancient sea, scientists reported Thursday.

At the same time, managers of the Mars Pathfinder robots on the surface said the lander's battery appears to be dead after three months in the Martian deep-freeze, causing a communications disruption that began last Saturday. But they said the craft is otherwise healthy and expressed confidence they will be able to continue limited operations using solar energy alone.

"Rumors of the death of Pathfinder are greatly exaggerated," said project manager Brian Muirhead. "I'm confident we'll get to the bottom of this and learn how to operate without a battery."

Overhead, the recently arrived Mars Surveyor craft is still maneuvering into position for a formal mapping mission that will not begin for six months. But as the spacecraft's handlers send it dipping repeatedly into the Martian atmosphere as low as 69 miles above the surface, using the drag to reshape its orbital path, they have begun to check out their equipment.

"All the instruments are operating magnificently," said lead scientist Arden L. Albee, of the California Institute of Technology. "We're astounded by the things we're getting back in the first weeks," he added, and this is only a taste of the flood of data to come.

Pope Sees No Imminent Apology To Jews over World War II

The Washington Post

Pope John Paul II told reporters on his flight from Vatican City to Brazil Thursday that it is "interesting" that the Roman Catholic Church is being asked to seek forgiveness for the Jewish Holocaust in World War II, adding, "It cannot be forgotten that in the world there were other holocausts."

Speaking on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, the pope said that a universal apology from the Vatican for its near-silence during World War II is not imminent. He said that he will wait until an anti-semitism congress planned for later this month before discussing any declaration or apology.

The pontiff's statements, made in a conversation aboard his aircraft, were confirmed by a Vatican press release several hours after he landed in Rio de Janeiro at the start of a four-day visit to Brazil for the Second Annual Conference of the Family.

His statements came as the Catholic Church is coming under increasing pressure to acknowledge passivity during World War II, when millions of Jews and others deemed undesirable by Nazi Germany were rounded up and shipped to concentration camps in regions where the church maintained some influence. The church itself has struggled with its behavior during the era, and with accusations of Catholic anti-semitism.

Against this background, the pope was asked by reporters if the Vatican should broaden the apology issued by the French Catholic church this week for its complacency during World War II.

"Forgiveness has been asked many times for the past and even for recent times," responded the pope.