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HOUSE MINORITY LEADER TO RETIRE Rep. Robert Michel, the House Republican leader for 13 years, announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election to Congress next year. ``Had George Bush won reelection, I would have felt obligated to see his administration through and capped my career with 40 years in the House. I don't have that obligation now,'' said Mr. Michel, who was first elected to Congress from Illinois in 1956. He was elected House Republican leader in 1980 and re-elected six more times. Michel has been at the vanguard of a group of moderate Republicans whose ranks have been dwindling in the House. His retirement is expected to set off a heated leadership race, with House minority whip Newt Gingrich (R) of Georgia the clear front-runner to replace him. New NATO commander

President Clinton yesterday named Army Gen. George Alfred Joulwan to become commander of NATO military forces in Europe in a move approved by other alliance members, the Defense Department said. General Joulwan is now chief of US forces in Latin America and will replace Army Gen. John Shalikashvili as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO forces based in Mons, Belgium. Quick Senate approval is expected. Former KGB boss elected

Former Soviet politburo member and secret policeman Gaidar Aliyev appeared to have seized victory in Azerbaijan's presidential poll, winning 90 percent of the vote, Interfax news agency said yesterday. Mr. Aliyev headed the KGB security police in the former Soviet republic in the 1960s and was first secretary of its Communist Party in the 1970s. IRA bombings

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Five IRA bombs rocked north London and another shook a town north of Belfast just hours after the guerrilla group's chiefs welcomed a nationalist-backed peace initiative for the troubled province of Northern Ireland. The attacks in the British capital caused traffic chaos, some damage, and minor injuries at dawn yesterday in the Archway and Highgate areas close to where the Irish Republican Army exploded three other bombs Saturday, injuring five people. US poverty said to rise

The number of poor Americans jumped to 36.9 million last year, more than at any time since John Kennedy was president, the Census Bureau reported yesterday. The figures show 1.2 million Americans were added to the poverty rolls a fact analysts attributed to lingering unemployment amid a slow recovery from the recession. The government defines a poor person as someone whose income is below the national poverty line. For a family of four in 1992, the poverty line was $14,335. For someone living alone it was $7,143. Bombing trial begins

Opening statements in the landmark World Trade Center case began yesterday in Manhattan federal court. Lawyers predict the trial, in which four defendants are charged with planting the fatal bomb that resulted in the worst terrorist act on United States soil, will last at least three months. The Feb. 26 bombing tore through the garage level of the nation's largest office complex, killing six people and injuring more than 1,000. The case involves four defendants, three Palestinians and an Egptian. High court ruling

The Supreme Court left intact yesterday a ruling that 55 civil rights and women's rights groups say ``threatens to perpetuate discrimination against women and minorities in upper-level employment in America.'' The court, without comment, refused to hear Nancy Ezold's arguments that sexual bias and a ``glass ceiling'' artificial barriers faced by career women are the reasons she wasn't made a partner of the Philadelphia law firm where she worked six years. `Aladdin' video sales soar

``Aladdin'' took a magic carpet ride into millions of homes this weekend, shattering videotape sales records and topping the $216 million it has grossed at the North American box office in an entire year. Already the highest-grossing animated film of all time, ``Aladdin'' sold about 10.6 million copies in its first three days of release.

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