MEXICANS VOTE IN CRITICAL ELECTION Millions of Mexicans went to the polls yesterday in a presidential election that could be the closest and most critical in the nation's history. Some experts were predicting a turnout of as much as 70 percent of Mexico's 45.7 million registered voters following a fiercely fought campaign that has focused largely on whether the government can hold a clean election. Most polls show Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) with a comfortable lead, but they also indicate that he could be the first PRI candidate to win with less than 50 percent of the vote. NAACP board ousts Chavis

After a turbulent 16-month tenure, Benjamin Chavis Jr. was fired as head of the NAACP in Baltimore Saturday for conduct that the board chairman termed ``inimical to the best interests'' of the preeminent civil rights group. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's debate behind closed doors came in the wake of disclosure of a $332,400 out-of-court settlement of a sexual discrimination charge. Possible IRA cease-fire

The Irish Republican Army reportedly is set to declare an indefinite cease-fire in Northern Ireland and the British mainland. The Observer of London says the cease-fire could come within the week. The report says it would be a test of the British government's offer to talk to members of the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, following three months of peace. Syria, Turkey, Iran confer

Foreign ministers of Turkey, Iran, and Syria met in Damascus, Syria, yesterday to discuss how to counter Kurdish attempts at greater autonomy in the region and stopping inter-Kurdish fighting in northern Iraq. About 17 million Kurds live in Turkey, Iran, and Syria and the three governments have been wary of the UN-backed experiment at Kurdish autonomy in northern Iraq. Moscow coup recalled

A tiny crowd of 500 gathered in Moscow Saturday to listen to speeches marking the end of the three-day coup on Aug. 21, 1991. The putsch was launched by senior ministers who tried to depose then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But Russian President Boris Yeltsin was able to organize resistance. After three days the coup collapsed. PLO team visits Jordan

Jordanian and Palestinian delegates met in Amman, Jordan, yesterday to discuss strained relations that have hit a new low since recent peace moves between Jordan and Israel. The talks are focusing on cooperation in tourism, education, health, trade, and communications and could be followed by a meeting between PLO chief Yasser Arafat and King Hussein. Bangladesh ferry disaster

More than 300 people were missing yesterday after an overcrowded ferry sank in a whirlpool in Bangladesh's Meghna River about 65 miles from Dhaka Saturday. Rescuers said they did not expect to find any more survivors. Officials said a rescue tug was on its way to the site of the accident, but it was being delayed by strong currents and high winds. Linus Pauling

Two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling died Friday at his home in Big Sur, 110 miles south of San Francisco.

He was the only person to win two unshared Nobel Prizes: first in chemistry and later the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for nuclear disarmament. He was also a longtime advocate of the benefits of vitamin C.

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