Kim Jong Il Set To Take Helm in North Korea

NORTH KOREA, on the verge of completing the transfer of power after President Kim Il Sung's death, took steps yesterday to continue recent diplomatic initiatives toward the United States and South Korea.

Radio Pyongyang said the North would hold talks with US officials next week in New York aimed at resuming high-level negotiations in Geneva that were interrupted by the announcement of Kim's death. The Geneva dialogue, aimed at resolving a crisis over the north's suspected nuclear-weapons program, opened last Friday, but were suspended the following day.

In an indication that Kim Jong Il, the eldest son and heir of the late president, was certain to succeed his father in the first-ever dynastic succession in a Communist country, Radio Pyongyang reported the younger Kim was ``at the top helm of the party, state, and military.''

A senior Seoul official said the North's leadership appeared to have finalized steps to confirm Kim as its undisputed leader.

North and South Korea are also expected to resume talks later this month to arrange an unprecedented summit that was delayed by the older Kim's passing, the southern official said. European Union to choose leader

LUXEMBOURG Prime Minister Jacques Santer looked set yesterday to become the next president of the European Commission, a safe but uninspiring compromise choice to end an embarrassing impasse.

European Union leaders will hold a special summit in Brussels tomorrow to choose a successor to Jacques Delors but diplomats said Mr. Santer, who has led his country for nine years, was the only viable candidate in the running.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl is determined to settle the issue to avoid risking a dispute with the European Parliament and undermining his country's EU presidency in the run-up to October general elections in Germany.

Santer, nobody's first choice for a post that Delors has transformed into a powerful international force during the past 10 years, got his chance when Britain vetoed the appointment of Belgian Prime Minister Jean-Luc Dehaene at the EU summit in Corfu, Greece, last month.

As a center-right leader from a small country, Santer meets the informal criteria set for a successor to Delors. But in contrast to the visionary French socialist, Santer is widely portrayed as an uncontroversial but uninspiring selection. PLO officials sent back to Egypt

ISRAEL closed Palestinian border crossings yesterday after accusing Yasser Arafat of sneaking in four men believed to be involved in deadly terrorist attacks. The four were among 13 officials of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) who accompanied Mr. Arafat when he arrived Tuesday to set up permanent residence as head of the governing council in the newly autonomous Gaza Strip and West Bank town of Jericho.

Israel said two were involved in one of the most nightmarish attacks in Israeli history, the 1974 raid on a high school in Maalot in which 21 Israeli teenagers were killed. The two others were linked to dozens of military operations against Israeli targets planned in Beirut.

Israel closed the crossings between Egypt and the Gaza Strip and between the West Bank and Jordan. Entrances to Israel from Gaza and Jericho remained open.

All four men were sent back to Egypt. ``There was a situation, and it has been solved,'' said Marwan Kanafani, Arafat's spokesman, from the PLO chief's headquarters at the Palestine Hotel in Gaza City.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told his ministers Tuesday night that the presence of the officials was a grave violation of the Israel-PLO autonomy agreement, signed May 4, which established limited Palestinian rule in Gaza and the Jericho region of the West Bank.

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