Japan By-Election Gives Boost to Opposition Party

JAPAN'S main opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) cruised to an easy victory in the first parliamentary by-election since it lost power in July.

The LDP candidate won almost twice as many votes as his Socialist rival in Sunday's contest for a parliamentary seat in Hiroshima. It was a sobering defeat for Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa. His fragile coalition, which includes the Socialist Party, could not agree to field a joint candidate against the LDP.

The LDP's victory proved its continuing popularity at a local level, and showed it could easily regain power at the next general election should the coalition fail to run joint candidates against it. India Marks Ayodhya

Bombs exploded on five trains in India late Sunday and early yesterday, killing one person and injuring at least 18, the government said. No one claimed responsibility, but the timing suggested religious extremists.

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya by Hindu fundamentalists. The event was followed by two months of riots across India that killed at least 2,000 people, mostly Muslims.

Both sides marked the anniversary yesterday: Muslims with a general strike in several cities; Hindus with a rally celebrating ``Awakening Day'' near the remains of the mosque.

In New Delhi, a homemade bomb went off in a poor neighborhood, killing at least two people. In Bombay, shops were closed and streets deserted in Muslim-dominated areas. Hundreds of police in riot gear guarded intersections. Ramos Destroys Guns

Philippine President Fidel Ramos yesterday set fire to 4,000 guns seized from political warlords and pledged to continue his campaign to stamp out private armies.

President Ramos dipped a strip of cloth into a gasoline container and set ablaze the guns in a symbolic ceremony at the national police headquarters. The melted metal will be turned into plows to be distributed to farmers to boost farm output.

The 4,000 guns were seized from the private armies of local politicians and criminal syndicates during a four-month campaign. But the seized guns represent only a small part of an estimated 250,000 unlicensed guns in the hands of private groups, criminal gangs, and ordinary Filipinos.

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