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News Briefs I

A Year Later, Royals Have A New Look

The Washington Post

When the news from Paris reached here early on a Sunday morning one year ago, a tidal wave of shock and grief engulfed Britain. Then, fairly quickly, the sadness over the death of Princess Diana evolved into anger - anger at Prince Charles, the cheating ex-husband, and anger at Queen Elizabeth, the seemingly cold and disapproving mother-in-law.

This weekend, as Britons troop to church services and memorial marches marking the first anniversary of the fateful auto accident on Aug. 31, 1997, the national sorrow persists. What has sharply changed, though, is the public attitude toward the royal family.

The anger has been transformed into widespread approval. A year after Diana's death, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, and the monarchy itself are enjoying the strongest popular support that they have seen in years.

Opinion surveys taken just after the intensely emotional funeral service for Diana last September showed that only 42 percent of the country approved of Prince Charles's conduct; only 40 percent thought he would make a "good king." New polls published this week give the 49-year-old heir apparent an approval rating of 63 percent. For the first time in years, a majority 54 percent said he would make a good king.

A year ago, 72 percent of those surveyed agreed that the Queen was "out of touch." This week, more than 75 percent were recorded as saying that she has "learned a lesson" from Diana's death. The Queen's personal approval rating was above 70 percent in several recent polls.

The rage at Charles and his family was so strong a year ago that only 38 percent of Britons surveyed last September thought the monarchy would survive. Now, 54 percent of the British people say the monarchy will survive through Prince Charles's expected reign. Just 18 percent today agree with the suggestion that the country would be better off without the royal family.

Panama Votes on Successive Terms for President

Los Angeles Times

By Sunday, Panamanians must sort the lofty ideals from the personal ambitions to decide in a referendum whether their presidents - particularly their current president, Ernesto Perez Balladares - can run for re-election.

Constitutional provisions adopted after dictator Gen. Manuel Noriega was ousted from power by a 1989 U.S. invasion and arrested on drug trafficking charges forbid presidents from holding consecutive terms.

The idea was to break with Panama's tradition of strongman rule by forcing presidents to leave office after five years.

Now, critics in both Panama and the United States warn that reinstating re-election would threaten the fragile democracy established at the cost of hundreds of U.S. and Panamanian lives. They point out that Peru permitted re-election earlier in the decade and that its re-elected president appears to be positioning himself to seek a third term.

Albania Expands Crackdown Against Arabs

The Washington Post
TIRANA, Albania

Albania has launched a broad crackdown on Arab and Islamic groups and individuals at the urging of U.S., Italian, and German intelligence officials who helped uncover a series of terrorist networks here, including one associated with Saudi expatriate Osama bin Laden and another organized by radical Algerians, officials here say.

The effort amounts to a substantial expansion of the intelligence probe earlier this summer that led to joint arrests by the CIA and Albanian authorities here in late June and mid-July of at least three Islamic militants who allegedly are associated with bin Laden. Some Albanian and U.S. officials now say they believe - without being able to prove it - that those arrests likely influenced the timing of the Aug. 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, which Washington has blamed on bin Laden's organization.

The Albanian investigation is still in an early stage and no clear picture has emerged of the extent of infiltration by terrorist groups, officials here say.

But several said they already have confirmed that the groups not only were using Albania as a haven from foreign law enforcement agencies but also were organizing support networks here to help terrorists use Albania as a gateway between the Middle East and other countries in Europe or elsewhere.

"Islamic terrorists had been hiding in this country [including some] who were thinking of organizing a bomb attack against the American Embassy or against the [U.S.] aid community," said Albanian Prime Minister Fatos Nano in an interview. He said that "due to aggressive action by this government, we blocked many things" and extradited some of the alleged terrorists to Egypt.