Today's Story Line

Attacks on US soldiers patrolling Kosovo have increased, even as the US Congress debates limiting US involvement.

North Korea has been on a diplomatic offensive for the past year, making overtures to several foreign countries. Now it's ready for talks with South Korea, which could reduce tensions over the world's most militarized border.

Facing May 28 elections, Venezuela's President Hugo Chvez ratchets up the rhetoric.

Faye Bowers Deputy world editor


HOSTAGES INTERVIEWED: Finland's Helsingin Sanomat newspaper yesterday printed a transcript of interviews with two Finnish hostages, who are among the 21 foreigners detained by Muslim separatists in the Philippines since Easter. Negotiations for their release were to begin today.

Notes, written by hostage Risto Vahanen, were passed to a Finnish diplomat Wednesday, then faxed to the newspaper.

Mr. Vahanen describes the attack: "We were taken in two speedboats. The boat trip took 20 hours - cold, rain, burning sun. We were short of drinking water and had no food.

Their treatment: "All the time we have been treated in a most decent and friendly way...."

But "the fight we had [on] 2nd of May was really frightening, due to heavy shooting, stray bullets, and bombs that exploded quite near to us. We all fear a renewal of this.

"Mentally, these two weeks have been very difficult for all of us. The first days we were in shock.... Little by little we have learned to live a day at a time, hoping for a quick release."

Their needs: warm clothing, rain shelters, blankets or sleeping bags, kettles to make tea, canned food, soap, toothpaste.

But "most of all we hope for a fast release, international pressure on the Philippine government to withdraw the troops now!"

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