ASIA

India Says Mediation Over Kashmir Unneeded

NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said today the border conflict with Pakistan over Kashmir was a bilateral issue that would be resolved between New Delhi and Islamabad, the Press Trust of India (PTI) reported.

"There is no need for any mediation. It is a bilateral issue and we will resolve it," PTI quoted Vajpayee as saying.

Yesterday in Kashmir, the Indian army prepared for a frontal assault on an almost vertical rock face held by Islamic militants. India wants to build on military gains it claimed earlier this week after a month of fighting the militants in the Indian-controlled part of the divided region.

China Returns Religious Figure to Tibet

BEIJING -- China's Communist Party has brought its designated "reincarnated soul boy" to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa to act as the "beloved religious leader of Tibetan people," an official report said yesterday.

In 1995, the Chinese government appointed Gyancain Norbu, who is now 9, as the 11th reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, the second highest religious leader in devoutly Buddhist Tibet. Under central government supervision, the boy has since been busy studying Buddhism, the state media said.

Beijing's decision to usher its choice as Panchen Lama into Lhasa for the first time is a direct challenge to the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader who is condemned as a "splittist" by the government.

Cease-Fire Signed for Troubled East Timor

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- The two sides of East Timor's conflict over independence signed a cease-fire agreement in Jakarta, just as the U.N. Security Council was deliberating whether to delay the Aug. 8 vote on independence because of security concerns.

Final Indonesian Vote Results to Come July 8

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Final results of Indonesia's general elections will be issued on July 8 and not on June 21 as earlier announced, the election commission said. "It seems there has been a misunderstanding. June 21 will be the start of the vote counting at [national level]. The decision on the final results will be on July 8 as scheduled," a commission spokesman told the Reuters news agency.

THE AMERICAS

Rebels Free Some Captives Seized From Plane

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Leftist rebels freed eight of the passengers they seized in a mid-April hijacking of a domestic flight. They still hold 16 people, including the five-member crew.

The eight were released by the National Liberation Army, or ELN, in the northern state of Bolivar, where a delegation of Colombian and international observers received them. On Tuesday night, the ELN freed 33 hostages seized from a Roman Catholic church during Mass on May 30. The rebel band still holds 38 hostages from that abduction.

U.S. Coast Guard Repatriates 99 Cubans

HAVANA -- The U.S. Coast Guard has repatriated another 99 Cubans trying to flee their Communist-run homeland in boats, bringing to more than 2,000 the number sent home in the last four years, Cuban authorities said. Authorities said the 55 men, 33 women and 11 children were handed over Thursday at Orozco port where they were given medical exams before being transported to their homes.

Police Chief Resigns in Torture Case

BRASILIA -- The head of Brazil's federal police resigned after three days in office, losing government support amid allegations he tortured a priest almost 30 years ago when the country was under military rule.

Joao Batista Campelo was sworn in to Brazil's top police post Tuesday even though the government already had ordered an investigation of the claim he tortured Joao Antonio Monteiro during interrogations in 1970.

AFRICA

Malawi Voters Reelect Incumbent President

LILONGWE, Malawi -- Malawi voters returned President Bakili Muluzi to office this week, a result that fell in line with other recent African elections in cementing the position of leaders since the advent of multiparty elections.

Muluzi was first elected five years ago after "life president" Hastings Kamuzu Banda was swept out of office on the early 1990s tide that challenged one-man rule across the continent. The new leaders have only rarely been voted out in subsequent elections, however. Many of those elections have been boycotted by opposition parties that accuse the incumbent of manipulating the system.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iraq Rejects British Plan on Sanctions

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq will not accept a proposal for conditional suspension of U.N. sanctions because it wants them lifted immediately, a senior official of the ruling Baath party said in published remarks.

The official Iraqi News Agency quoted Abdel-Ghani Abdel-Ghafur as telling a visiting delegation of Russian lawmakers that the proposal is meant only to "prolong the unfair embargo on Iraq." Britain and the Netherlands have proposed a partial suspension of sanctions imposed after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 once Iraq has answered outstanding questions about its weapons of mass destruction. U.S. officials endorsed the proposal.

Turkey to Pull Judge From Ocalan Case

ANKARA -- Turkey's parliament voted to withdraw a military judge from the panel hearing the treason case against Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan, a move aimed at deflecting international criticism that the trial is unfair.

Legislators voted 423-40 to amend two articles of the constitution and withdraw military judges from all state security courts.

EUROPE

New Fighting Erupts in Chechnya; 7 Dead

MOSCOW -- Russian helicopter gunships and artillery opened fire on Chechen positions in southern Russia, officials said, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks on Russian outposts that left seven servicemen dead and 15 wounded. The fighting appeared to be the worst in months around the breakaway Chechnya province, and comes at a time when Moscow and the Chechen government are trying to improve relations.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"As of now, KFOR is in every major town in Kosovo. What we need now is cool heads and calmness."

Lt. Col. Robin Clifford, a NATO spokesman