News In Brief

Saying, "they can't negotiate with a stack of guns under the table," British Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to apply pressure on the Irish Republican Army's political allies - one week before his government is due to yield power to a new self-rule administration in Northern Ireland. Formation of that administration is behind schedule because Protestants refuse to work with Sinn Fein, which represents the IRA politically, until the guerrilla group at least begins to destroy its weapons under international supervision. Sinn Fein leaders argue that last year's peace accord with Protestants sets no deadline for IRA disarmament to begin.

In violation of the cease-fire accord in Kosovo, the Yugoslav Army has deployed six times as many troops against ethnic Albanian separatists as is permitted, international monitors said. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the troops commonly fail to return to their barracks after routine training exercises.

Chinese police returned to the home of a political dissident they'd missed earlier in the week and arrested him, a Hong Kong human-rights group said. Miao Xike had announced formation of a new opposition party and said he'd travel to Beijing to recruit members.

More than 2,000 reinforcements were ordered to the restive Indonesian provincial capital of Ambon, and the local police commander was fired as the government struggled to contain sectarian violence there. At least 161 people have died - 38 of them this week - and more than 400 others have been hurt in clashes between Christians and Muslims. Meanwhile, the official Antara news agency reported that parliament was considering whether to question Gen. Wiranto, the armed forces chief, on his handling of the Ambon violence.

Original reports on the murders of foreign tourists in a Uganda national park were clouded by new disclosures. The nation's president, Yoweri Museveni, said the dead numbered 12, not five as first claimed, and included Ugandans - among them the park game warden. The victims were killed by Hutu rebels from neighboring Rwanda, using machetes - and not in exchanges of gunfire with Ugandan troops. Museveni apologized for lax security measures that made the attack possible and announced a massive manhunt for the killers.

The election to choose President Nelson Mandela's successor will be held June 2, the South African leader announced. Opinion polls show Mandela's deputy, Thabo Mbeki, and the ruling African National Congress almost certainly will win the presidency and retain control of parliament with ease. But the elections commission so far has registered only about half of the nation's eligible voters in a drive that began last November.

Birth-control pills may be on the market by the end of the year in Japan - 39 years after they were approved for sale in the US, reports from Tokyo said. Applications that had been pending before the Health and Welfare Ministry since the beginning of the decade finally were OK'd by its pharmaceutical-affairs committee, the reports said. Official statistics show that one in five pregnancies in Japan ends in abortion even though national health insurance does not cover the procedure.

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