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News Briefs

Likud Leader’s Visit Sparks Violence


Israeli police fired rubber-coated bullets at Palestinian stone-throwers early Thursday morning after Ariel Sharon, the leader of Israel’s hardline opposition, led a group from his Likud party on a rare visit to the city’s most bitterly contested religious site.

The visit to the esplanade known by Jews as the Temple Mount and by Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary erupted in violence shortly after Sharon left the platform area. About a dozen Palestinians were injured and several Israeli soldiers were also hurt. Later in the day, about 200 youths in the Palestinian-controlled city of Ramallah, in the West Bank, threw stones at Israeli soldiers, who shot back with rubber-coated steel bullets. The Palestinians suffered more injuries.

Sharon’s decision to visit the holy site -- the third most sacred in Islam and that history says was the site of the Jewish temples -- came at a time of political sensitivity because the future sovereignty of the large platform area has become the greatest sticking point between the Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators.

Although Israel polices the area, it is visited by many more Muslims than Jews. Muslims believe that Mohammed ascended to heaven from the site of one of the mosques there, and so they view visits from Jews to be an aggressive intrusion.

Denmark Decides to Say No to Euro


Denmark’s proudly independent voters decided Thursday to stay out of the European common currency, rejecting membership in the new euro by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent in a nationwide referendum that drew 90 percent of the electorate to the polls.

Denmark’s “no” is a blow to the euro, which has been losing value for months. Still, the immediate market impact will probably be mild, because most traders had expected the result. The political implications could be greater, however, slowing the momentum toward centralized power within the European Union.

A key leader of the “no” campaign here, Pia Kjaersgaard, of the nationalist Danish People’s Party, said Thursday that the vote was mainly a rejection of European integration. “There has been an express train racing toward a United States of Europe,” she said. “The people of Denmark have put the brakes on that train.”

Finance Minister Mogens Lykketoft, a supporter of euro membership, offered a similar assessment. “You can’t push Danes around. There is a general animosity in Europe toward the EU bureaucrats issuing all these regulations, and that is particularly strong in Denmark,” Lykketoft said.

Bush, Gore Spar on Economic Plans


Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush engaged in a long-distance duel over economic plans Thursday, sharpening their arguments for their first debate next week against the backdrop of a robust economy with some uncertainty on the horizon.

While neither candidate offered new proposals, the speeches highlighted the challenges each man faces in the campaign’s remaining weeks. The strong economy under President Clinton’s watch has bolstered the vice president’s election chances, and so Gore has stressed he would continue Clinton’s fiscal policies. Bush, needing to separate Gore from that record, sought to portray the vice president as a closet liberal who would destroy the boom.

Gore, addressing the Brookings Institution shortly after the government announced the economy grew rapidly amid low inflation in the spring, said the prosperity and record budget surpluses offered a unique opportunity “to create the America of our ideals.” He reiterated he would eliminate the national debt, boost spending for education and health care and offer modest tax relief.