Japanese premier faces leadership crisis

JAPANESE Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa faced a leadership crisis yesterday after his coalition partners forced him to abort a plan to oust his chief Cabinet secretary, Masayoshi Takemura.

The debacle could seriously damaged Mr. Hosokawa's reputation as a capable leader and has polarized his coalition into two camps, raising the possibility of a breakup when the next crisis hits. But political analysts believe that as relations between the US and Japan worsen over President Clinton's announcement of reviving the Super 301, which allows retaliatory tariffs of up to 100 percent, the coalition will overcome its differences.

UN food convoy held up by rebel Afghans

AN Afghan guerrilla commander held up a UN food convoy on its way to the besieged Afghan capital of Kabul, forcing hungry residents to go without needed supplies.

The convoy was the first to be sent to Kabul since forces allied with Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar tightened a blockade of Kabul against his rival, President Burhanuddin Rabbani, in mid-February.

The commander stopped the six-truck convoy on Wednesday and demanded one truck in return for safe passage, and the whole convoy returned to Jalalabad, said Sotirios Mousouris, the UN Secretary-General's personal representative to Afghanistan. Negotiations between the UN and rebel leaders resulted in an agreement to allow the convoy to resume its journey yesterday.

Kabul residents at one newly established food distribution criticized the government and the guerrilla mujahideen when the promised food failed to arrive.

Four Chinese dissidents disappear

FOUR Chinese activists have disappeared from their homes and are feared arrested, dissident sources said yesterday.

The four include Zhou Guoqiang, Qian Yumin, Yuan Hongbin, and Wang Jiaqi. Police say they had no information on their whereabouts.

The disappearances of the four comes at a particularly sensitive time for China's human rights reputation. US Secretary of State Warren Christopher will visit China next week, and is expected to warn Beijing that it must improve its rights record to keep its trade status.

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