Facing a host of overdue decisions, leaders of the governing coalition met this weekend to develop priorities for Japan's next government. They appeared to have reached general agreement on what to do about the neglected national budget, economic and political reform, North Korea's nuclear program, and deteriorating trade ties with the US. The officials tried to end a week of bickering, saying they would meet again today to finalize policy priorities and decide on their choice for prime minister. Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa threw Japanese politics into turmoil April 8 by announcing he would step down to deal with a personal financial scandal. Former Foreign Minister Michio Watanabe said Sunday he would leave Japan's former ruling party to seek support within the current government coalition in a bid to become prime minister.

Italian coalition wins

Media magnate Silvio Berlusconi came a step closer to becoming premier Saturday when the conservative coalition he leads captured the leadership of both houses of Parliament. The hard-fought battle, which took four rounds of voting over two days in the Senate and Chamber of Deputies, opens the way for President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro to select a premier to form a government. Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest men, is now considered the leading candidate.

More N.Y.C. police arrests

New York City's police commissioner says he expects about 35 more officers in a troubled city precinct to be arrested or disciplined, according to Sunday's New York Times. Police Commissioner William Bratton said the officers either will be charged with drug violations or disciplined for failing to report the corruption they saw. Twelve officers from the 30th Precinct in the city's Harlem section were charged Friday with a variety of crimes, including selling drugs, protecting drug dealers, and assaulting citizens.

Contra rebels disarm

A contra guerrilla leader and the last of his fighting force have disarmed in northern Nicaragua, perhaps closing the final chapter in the country's long civil war. Jose (The Jackal) Angel Talavera and 380 fellow fighters laid down arms Friday in their remote mountain stronghold of Quilali, 180 miles north of Managua.

Ralph Ellison, author

Ralph Ellison, whose ``Invisible Man'' articulated the experience of being black in America and is regarded as one of the century's greatest novels, died Saturday. The book, which won the 1952 National Book Award, chronicles an idealistic young black man's humiliations in the South and in Harlem, from campus life to street riots.

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