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News Briefs

China’s Communist Party Sets Date For Expected Transfer of Power


China’s Communist Party will hold its most important meeting in years in early November, state-run media reported Sunday, during which senior officials are expected to step down and hand the reins of power to a younger generation.

State-run television announced the 16th Congress of the Communist Party would be held Nov. 8, adding that “all preparatory work for the congress is progressing smoothly at present.”

The congress, generally held every five years, usually takes place in September or October. This year, however, it has been delayed so President Jiang Zemin will still hold that title and that of party chairman when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Mexico in October and then visits the United States, Chinese sources said.

The announcement followed several weeks of secret meetings at the summer resort of Beidaihe, 100 miles east of Beijing. Communist Party elders were believed to have bickered over the leadership lineup.

Georgia Launches Operation In Lawless Pankisi Gorge Region


Interior Ministry troops in Georgia cautiously launched an operation Sunday to try to bring the country’s lawless Pankisi Gorge under control, rolling in and setting up seven checkpoints but making no arrests.

The Pankisi operation, a major test for the former Soviet republic’s ragged and demoralized forces, will be closely watched by both the United States, which fears the gorge could be a refuge for Arab militants, and Russia, which has long been pressing Georgia to clear the area of rebels from neighboring Chechnya.

But there was no element of surprise in an operation that was announced more than a week ago, giving Chechen separatists and local criminals alike plenty of time to abandon the area.

The gorge in northeastern Georgia has long been a haven for criminals involved in kidnapping, extortion and violence. Moreover, it has a reputation as a sanctuary for the rebels fighting Russian forces across the border in Chechnya.

It took U.S. pressure and military training to nudge Georgian authorities to take action to bring the gorge under control.

U.S. forces have been training Georgian army forces in anti-terrorist operations since May, after President Eduard A. Shevardnadze appealed to Washington for help.

Sunday’s operation coincides with army exercises near the gorge that involve 1,500 Georgian troops, several hundred of them trained by U.S. Special Forces.

Rockets Fired on U.S. Outpost


A bomb exploded in a garbage bin next to a U.N. staff house here Sunday night, injuring at least two Afghans, and rockets were fired at a U.S. military outpost in remote Konar province earlier Sunday, highlighting the continued threat of terrorism in the capital and across the country.

The two attacks came during a visit here by Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the U.S. Central Command. Franks told reporters in Kabul Sunday that “the sense of stability has not yet arrived” in Afghanistan, and “much remains to be done” in the international campaign to eliminate terrorism in the shaky post-war nation.

In the past week, U.S. forces have been conducting a massive sweep in Paktia province, where a pro-Taliban commander is based, and in other eastern areas. They have uncovered numerous caches of weapons, including rocket launchers, grenades and rifles, and detained about six people, according to U.S. military spokesmen.