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New snags threatened the search for peace in Kosovo as fresh fighting erupted near Kacanik, the same village that Serbs attacked last week. Meanwhile, Western diplomats said the expected signing of the peace plan by the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army was in doubt because its leaders still had problems with key provisions.

Saying the US was "declaring war," diplomats from the European Union took their case before the World Trade Organization in the long-running banana dispute. They were asking the WTO's backing against a new set of punitive measures against European products unless the EU revises its policy on importing bananas. The US estimates that marketers such as Dole, Chiquita, and Del Monte lose hundreds of millions of dollars because the Europeans prefer to buy bananas from their former Caribbean colonies.

Despite a carefully scripted trip aimed at showing US solidarity with the countries of Central America hardest hit by hurricane Mitch last fall, President Clinton was expected to face new pressure to halt the deportation of thousands of illegal immigrants. He's to visit Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, offering small aid grants to each while a larger $956 million emergency measure is pending before Congress. Some 15,000 aliens from those countries became eligible for deportation yesterday as a moratorium that kept them from being expelled on humanitarian grounds expired.

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Treaties that link the new ministerial council for Northern Ireland to the governments of Britain and the Irish Republic were signed in Dublin. The move leaves just the formal establishment of the council, which was to have been given self-rule powers tomorrow. But as Britain's Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam and Irish Foreign Minister David Andrews completed the ceremony, the leader of Sinn Fein warned that the peace process was sliding into crisis. Gerry Adams said the dispute over disarmament by the Irish Republican Army needed solutions that the British and Irish governments had yet to focus on. The handover of power by Britain now is expected to be postponed until at least the end of the month.

Just as his opinion-poll numbers were finally rising, Japan's embattled prime minister was dealt a heavy new political blow. Justice Minister Shozaburo Nakamura resigned, accepting responsibility for allowing movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger to enter the country without a passport. His resignation was the second from the Cabinet since Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi took office last summer.

With all but 5 percent of the vote counted, moderate rightist candidate Francisco Flores was declared the winner of El Salvador's presidential election. Flores, of the ruling ARENA Party, held a 51.9 percent to 29 percent lead over his closest challenger, Facundo Guardado of the leftist Farabundo Mart National Liberation Front, the former guerrilla army-turned political movement. Only about 35 percent of El Salvador's eligible voters bothered to go to the polls, election officials said.

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