KHMER ROUGE BOYCOTT ELECTION The Khmer Rouge boycotted a meeting in Beijing yesterday where other Cambodian factions insisted the United Nations-supervised elections scheduled for the end of this month must go ahead as planned. Yasushi Akashi, head of the UN peacekeeping force in Cambodia, said the meeting called by Prince Norodom Sihanouk had agreed to a joint communique that "gives us encouragement to go ahead with preparation for a free and fair election," scheduled for May 23-27. But he acknowledged the absence of the Khmer Rouge, which has vowed to use violence to disrupt the polls, casts doubt on the process. Norway kills whales

Norwegian whalers killed the first whale of the 1993 research hunt after almost three weeks of being hampered by Arctic storms expedition leader Tore Haug said yesterday. Norway has been facing international protests because it plans to resume commercial whaling this year despite a global ban the International Whaling Commission imposed in 1986. The meat is sold for consumption in Norway, which says the whales are plentiful enough to sustain a hunt. Paraguay elections

Paraguay's four-year-old democracy faces its first major test Sunday in elections clouded by rumors of military coups and vote fixing.

Former US President Carter heads a team of international observers overseeing the proceedings. President Andres Rodriguez has promised a fair and free vote, even threatening to send tanks onto the streets to guarantee the rights of the 1.7 million voters who will choose a new president, congressional representatives, senators, and provincial authorities. Taiwan opens China door

Taiwan, opening its doors wider to China, will allow visits by negotiators from the semi-official Chinese body which handles relations with the island. Until now, mainland Chinese were only allowed into Taiwan for family visits or under exceptional circumstances, such as visits by groups of journalists. But at landmark talks in Singapore last month, China and Taiwan agreed to start regular talks on a number of issues. Columbia lands safely

Florida-bound space shuttle Columbia and its seven-man crew took a detour and landed in the California desert yesterday after a 10-day German laboratory research mission. The astronauts had worked round-the-clock inside Spacelab after reaching orbit April 26, conducting experiments on fish, plants, and themselves to help scientists better understand how organisms adapt to weightlessness. Cracks in Rabin's rule

Cracks appeared in Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's government yesterday as the argument deepened over what concessions Israel should and could offer to secure peace with its Arab neighbours. The six-member Shas religious faction, a vital leg of Rabin's 10-month-old coalition, threatened to quit the government unless he replaced Education Minister Shulamit Aloni of the leftist secular Meretz party by Sunday.

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