World

No change in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's agenda in the US was expected, despite a new wave of violence as he was en route to Washington. The Palestinian militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for an attack on a West Bank village in which four people died, among them a gunman posing as an Israeli soldier. The Army also seized eight rockets at a West Bank checkpoint, and infiltrators set off a bomb in northern Israel, but apparently without causing casualties. Sharon cut short his last visit to Washington, in December, because of similar incidents.

Hundreds of people were rescued from the avalanche in Afghanistan that had trapped them for more than a day in temperatures as low as minus-40 degrees F. Four others died inside a sealed mountain tunnel or in a car stranded outside. The snow also blocked shipments of food and other aid to remote areas. Rescuers (above) included US soldiers and members of an international land mine-clearing mission.

"All patriotic citizens" were being urged to turn out tomorrow for a rally in Yugoslavia's capital for ex-President Slobodan Milosevic, whose war-crimes trial opens Tuesday. The trial in The Hague before the UN tribunal for the Balkans is being called the most important of its type in Europe since the fall of Nazi Germany. More than 1,300 Serbs are believed ready to testify on Milosevic's behalf, and his lawyers have said they also may call Western leaders - among them former US President Clinton. (Story, page 6.)

A formal cease-fire and eventual peace negotiations between Tamil separatist guerrillas and the new Sri Lanka government appear possible by midyear, mediators said. In Colombo, a delegation of brokers from Norway was meeting with government leaders, who claimed that the sides have a greater understanding of each other's problems. Meanwhile, with the help of Red Cross mediators, the Army and Tamil rebels were negotiating how to open a safe passage across the front lines for civilian noncombatants. Both currently are under an informal truce that began Christmas Eve and expires Feb. 24.

Over the objections of leaders of Britain's ethnic minority communities, the government said it will propose mandatory English proficiency tests for all new immigrants. Home Secretary David Blunkett said the measure, along with an oath of allegiance, would make the immigration process more efficient. His remarks preceded the release of several reports on last summer's race riots in Asian neighborhoods of British cities.

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