World

Changing his story to police interrogators, the confessed kidnapper of American journalist Daniel Pearl said he understands The Wall Street Journal reporter is dead. But senior Pakistani officials and Pearl's employer both expressed confidence that he remains alive. Muslim militant Ahmed Omar Saeed (above, with head covered and under guard in Karachi) was charged formally with Pearl's abduction and ordered held for at least two more weeks. On Tuesday, he told police he believed Pearl - not seen in public since Jan. 23 - is still alive. (Story, page 8.)

As expected, Slobodan Milosevic's opening presentation to the UN war-crimes tribunal in The Hague was a lengthy justification of his actions as a "struggle against terrorism." Using a videotaped documentary on Kosovo, graphic photographs, and a lengthy set of statistics, the ex-Yugoslav president dismissed the 66-count indictment against him as an "ocean of lies." He's to resume his defense today. (Editorial, page 10.)

For the second straight night, the US military base at Kandahar, Afghanistan, was under attack. There were no immediate reports of casualties. But two Americans were slightly hurt by hostile fire in Wednesday's attack, in which "well-organized" intruders apparently penetrated to within 50 yards of US defensive positions.

Tourists in Beijing's Tiananmen Square watched as police chased, beat, and arrested more than 40 followers of the Falun Gong movement. The incident, the second of its type in less than a week, was described as a protest against China's ongoing crackdown on the movement and appeared timed to generate new attention as President Bush prepares for his official visit to Beijing next Thursday. The official Xinhua news agency said the demonstrators were from "overseas." (Story, page 1.)

A furor erupted in Australia over reports that Prime Minister John Howard's government misled the public last year in maintaining a hard line against illegal immigrants to improve its election prospects. The government admitted its secret service inadvertently had broken the law by wiretapping phone calls to and from a freighter involved in smuggling asylum-seekers from the Middle East and Afghanistan. At the time, the government also claimed - without evidence, the reports said - that some immigrants were throwing their children into the sea to try to blackmail authorities into accepting them.

In a nationally televised ceremony, the ruler of Bahrain proclaimed his strategic Persian Gulf state a constitutional monarchy and announced its first elections for parliament in 27 years will be held in October. Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa signed a new national charter designed to heal a rift between the ruling Sunni Muslims and the Shiite majority. Among its provisions: allowing women to run for office for the first time in local elections.

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