News In Brief

Rejecting the advice of its senior political representative, the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) committed itself to Western-sponsored peace negotiations with the Yugoslav government. A KLA spokesman said its delegation would bring numerous proposals to the talks outside Paris - among them a referendum on independence for the deeply divided province following an interim autonomy experiment that would last three years. KLA political adviser Adem Demaci had recommended against going to the talks, calling the autonomy plan a form of capitulation for the separatists.

More moderate Kosovo separatist leader Ibrahim Rugova also agreed to join the talks, which would open Saturday. No reply from the Yugoslav government is expected until tomorrow, when the ultranationalist-dominated Serb parliament meets in special session.

An angry denial from Paris followed claims by relief workers that French Navy ships had fired on rebel positions in Guinea-Bissau, causing "a high number of victims." A UN food-aid spokesman quoted hospital sources in the capital, Bissau, as saying at least 35 people had died and 220 others were wounded as fighting resumed between Army troops and rebel forces. The clashes appeared to signal the collapse of a truce reached last fall. Navy and government spokesmen said no French ship off the Guinea-Bissau coast had guns powerful enough to reach the shore.

Tensions heightened in East Timor as a group of activists staged an anti-Indonesia demonstration and suggested they'd hold a larger one Friday. The rally - in a cemetery where Indonesian troops killed dozens of people attending a funeral in 1991 - was peaceful. But separatists and East Timorese who remain loyal to Indo-nesia have accused each other of stockpiling weapons since the Jakarta government said last week it may end its 23-year control of the restive territory.

Signs reading "Comandante, we're proud that you are with us" greeted Fidel Castro as he arrived in Venezuela for the inauguration of President Hugo Chavez. The Cuban Communist leader was among 16 heads of state and representatives of 45 other governments attending the ceremony. It came two days before the seventh anniversary of an unsuccessful coup attempt by Chavez against President Carlos Andres Perez.

Until the jury system is in place throughout Russia, no court may sentence a convict to die, the nation's most senior judges ruled. The state is not believed to have put anyone to death since August 1996, although roughly 800 people are awaiting execution in prisons. Analysts said the Constitutional Court's edict effectively means the end of capital punishment, since it's expected to take years for the cash-strapped government to fully implement the jury system in the 80 administrative regions that are still without it.

Chinese migrants caught sneaking into Hong Kong without official documents will be deported to the mainland immediately, the territory's government warn-ed. The warning followed a court ruling late last week that children born before either of their parents became legal Hong Kong residents had the right to live there. The ruling opens the way for tens of thousands of Chinese to claim residence.

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