HATA IS LIKELY JAPANESE PRIME MINISTER Japan's fractious ruling coalition, which nearly fell apart after the prime minister announced he was quitting, neared agreement Wednesday on a candidate to replace him: Foreign Minister Tustomu Hata. Parliament was expected to vote early next week on a successor for Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, who last week said he would resign to take responsibility for an emerging financial scandal. If the factions in Hosokawa's coalition can stay together and preserve their majority, Hata probably will win the vote. Although he belongs to the coalition's more conservative faction and was once a member of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, Hata has championed the promised reforms that formed the coalition's main appeal to scandal-weary voters. Arafat blames Israel

Yasser Arafat, speaking in Strasbourg, France, on the day when Israeli troops were supposed to have withdrawn from Gaza and Jericho, blamed Israel for failing to reach an accord on Palestinian self-rule. In a speech to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Arafat blamed ``Israeli reticence and hesitation'' for missing the troop withdrawal deadline and said the settlements continue to threaten an overall peace. Few groceries to Alaska

Supermarkets in Alaska scrambled to keep the shelves stocked after the Teamsters' nationwide trucking strike cut off the flow of merchandise by ship from the West Coast. Teamsters in Alaska are not part of the strike by about 70,000 drivers, dock workers, and mechanics. But longshoremen have been honoring Teamster picket lines at three West Coast ports. The Teamsters went on strike against 22 companies April 6 over a push to use more part-time workers and more trains. Nagorno-Karabakh fighting

Fighting raged around the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region Wednesday after Azerbaijan's president, Geidar Aliev, in a nationwide television address Tuesday, urged Azerbaijan's 7 million citizens to drop their political disputes and unite against Armenian forces. About 15,000 people have died in fighting since 1988, when the region's 200,000 residents began pushing for independence. Rwandan capital periled

Gun fire rocked Kigali, Rwanda, Wednesday as rebels and government troops fought pitched street-to-street battles. More than 100,000 refugees streamed out of the city ahead of the ethnic warfare. With as many as 20,000 troops of the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front pouring in from the north to reinforce small groups already in the city, members of the provisional government left town.

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