News In Brief

Their banners fluttering in the wind, Protestant Orange Order marchers stopped peacefully at a 25-foot-high security wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, erected by security forces to keep them out of a Catholic neighborhood. The Orangemen then rallied in a park near the wall to mark the annual celebration of a key Protestant victory over Catholic forces three centuries ago. Meanwhile, in London, the British government was putting final touches on the legislation establishing a joint Protestant-Catholic self-rule administration for Northern Ireland by this weekend.

Islamic militant infiltrators were dismantling their defensive positions and withdrawing from Kashmir as fighting with Indian forces wound down. Cross- border shelling between India and Pakistan also had all but stopped yesterday. Analysts said the moves eased concern that the two months of fighting - which resulted in more than 1,000 casualties - would widen into a full war between the nuclear rivals. But in Karachi, Lahore, and other Pakistani cities angry opposition demonstrators were calling the withdrawal a sellout of the national interest.

Authorities in Iran met a fifth straight day of street protests with increased force, dispersing crowds with tear gas, firing shots over their heads, and arresting several demonstrators in Tehran, the capital. The protests were sparked by passage of tough new press-control guidelines by parliament, the closure of a reformist newspaper, and by a raid on student dormitories in which one person died and 20 others were hospitalized. Students were demanding that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, step down and were calling on his rival, President Mohamad Khatami, to step up the pace of political reforms.

Almost half of Indonesia's Cabinet visited volatile East Timor at the request of the UN, pledging its best efforts to ensure that a referendum on autonomy next month can be held peacefully. Balloting already has been postponed once because of growing violence blamed on Timorese who do not want to separate from Indonesia, and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is due to announce Friday whether conditions are safe for voter registration to proceed.

A new, long-range missile test launch by communist North Korea does, indeed, appear likely this summer, visiting US Sen. Robert Torricelli (D) of New Jersey said. Torricelli said he was "discouraged" after talks on the subject with a senior Foreign Ministry official. For weeks, there have been hints that such a launch is imminent. The North's new Taepodong-2 missile is believed to have the range to reach Alaska and Hawaii. A test missile last Aug. 31 sailed over Japan, alarming international defense officials.

Fewer than one-third of the so-called "millennium bug" computer problems anticipated in Russia have been fixed so far, the government's top telecommunications official said. Alexander Ivanov recommended such measures as a cut in airline flights on New Year's Eve and standby teams of computer specialists to deal with last-minute crises. But he predicted the necessary adjustments to critical systems would be completed in time.

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