ASIA

U.S. Sends Ships, Planes to Korean Waters

SEOUL -- U.S. warships and planes were on their way to waters off the Korean peninsula yesterday, but North Korean vessels were keeping their distance from a disputed area in the Yellow Sea where the North and South traded fire Tuesday and a North Korean boat was sunk.

The USS Vincennes left Japan on Wednesday and was to be joined today by another guided-missile cruiser, the USS Mobile Bay, said U.S. Navy Capt. Mike Doubleday, a Pentagon spokesman in Washington.

EA-6B surveillance and electronic warfare planes also are heading to the area, although Doubleday stressed that tension had eased since the North Korean torpedo boat was sunk.

India Expects Breakthroughs on Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India -- Indian fighter jets pounded key positions of Pakistan-backed infiltrators on India's side of the disputed Kashmir region, and New Delhi said it expected military and diplomatic breakthroughs on the conflict.

India's navy was in a state of alert as airstrikes and ground operations proceeded steadily in northern Kashmir close to the Line of Control that divides the Himalayan region.

Indian officials said they expected the seven leading industrial democracies and Russia -- who are meeting in Cologne, Germany, over the weekend -- to echo President Clinton's suggestion that Pakistan must reverse the infiltration across the Line of Control.

Philippine Leader's Aide Faces U.S. Charges

MANILA -- The United States sought the extradition of a powerful adviser to Philippine President Joseph Estrada on charges of illegal contributions to President Clinton's election campaign and other offenses.

The U.S. Embassy asked for assistance in the arrest of Mark Jimenez, a Philippine presidential adviser on Latin American affairs, so he could stand trial in the United States, according to a copy of its extradition request sent to the Foreign Office and obtained by the Reuters news agency. There was no immediate comment from Estrada.

World Bank Counters Claims on China Project

BEIJING -- The chief of the World Bank mission in China fired back at Tibetan exile groups who have criticized a planned anti-poverty effort in a province bordering Tibet. The groups' opposition has threatened approval of the project at a vote next week in Washington.

Tibetan activists have labeled the project in Qinghai province a tool for "ethnic cleansing," and the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet has termed the World Bank's participation a travesty. The Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, has held talks with World Bank president James D. Wolfensohn on the effort.

But Yukon Huang, the bank's top official in China, said accusations are false that the project will help China saturate an ethnic Tibetan area with large numbers of Chinese. Instead, the plan will move 58,000 people, most of whom are ethnic minorities who earn less than $30 per year, to a barren, nearly uninhabited region that is going to be redeveloped with an irrigation project.

EUROPE

Pope Looks Revitalized at Polish Trip's End

KRAKOW, Poland -- Pope John Paul II stretched out his Polish pilgrimage for a few hours of emotional visits with adoring faithful before flying off, blessing "my homeland, beloved country" and hinting he may return.

It was a rousing finish to the longest trip to any single country of his 20-year papacy, and the 79-year-old pontiff's strength seemed revitalized, after he fell and cut his head last week and flu forced him to miss Tuesday's Mass here in his former diocese.

Russian Lawmakers Reject Key Reform Bill

MOSCOW -- Russia's Communist-dominated parliament defeated a government-supported economic reform bill, thereby jeopardizing the country's chances of winning crucial foreign loans.

The bill, which would have imposed a new tax on gas stations, is part of a package of reforms designed to meet conditions for a $4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Moscow wants the money to pay off old debts to the IMF and avoid a potentially disastrous default.

Opponents of the tax said it would be used as an excuse to raise gas prices and would touch off price increases for other goods.

German Firms to Review Slave-Labor Fund

BONN -- German companies agreed to review details of a promised fund to compensate Nazi-era slave laborers after victims harshly criticized a plan unveiled last week, the government said.

The announcement followed talks among Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's chief of staff, Bodo Hombach, U.S. Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat and attorneys representing former slave laborers in the United States and Germany who filed class action suits.

Last week, 16 German companies that profited from Nazi-era slave labor announced a compensation fund that aims to quash lawsuits by survivors. But victims' groups were enraged by provisions that payments would only be offered for six months of slave labor or longer, and that they would be based on average pensions and the cost of living in claimants' home countries.

AFRICA

Mbeki Names New South African Cabinet

PRETORIA, South Africa -- New President Thabo Mbeki named his cabinet, retaining respected Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

For the post of deputy president, Mbeki named Jacob Zuma, one of the most senior Zulus in the Xhosa-dominated ruling party, the African National Congress. Inkatha Freedom Party leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi was reappointed home minister.

One major surprise was the shift of Nkosazana Zuma from health minister to foreign minister. Zuma was controversial as health minister, challenging pharmaceutical giants head on and declaring war on smoking virtually everywhere but in homes.

FOR THE RECORD

MADRID -- The Spanish judge seeking to prosecute former Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet has started to investigate 36 new cases of people who allegedly "disappeared" or were tortured under Pinochet, court sources said.

BUENOS AIRES -- Former Argentine President Raul Alfonsin, 72, who steered his country back to civilian rule after a brutal seven-year military dictatorship, was in intensive care after breaking ribs and suffering lung injuries in a car accident.

LONDON -- The 17 soldiers who participated in the largest mass killing by British troops in Northern Ireland are entitled to anonymity when they testify about their actions 27 years ago, a court ruled.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Kosovo! Why not!"

Bahit Sadik, a 70-year-old ethnic Albanian refugee eager to go home -- Page A1