AFRICA

Government, Rebels Reach Accord in Congo

LUSAKA, Zambia -- Congolese government and rebel officials said last night that they had reached an accord that could end the 11-month war in Congo. It aims to reestablish government control over the whole of Africa's third-largest country by merging three separate rebel forces with the army, a rebel leader said.

Bizima Karaha, security chief for the rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy, said the Congolese parties would present their agreement today to African defense and foreign ministers who have been in Lusaka for the week of peace talks.

"I can tell you that I am very satisfied," Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Yerodia said after six hours of talks between him and three rebel groups battling to topple President Laurent Kabila.

ASIA

Top Korean Officials Confer After Talks Stall

BEIJING -- A day after South Korea suspended talks with North Korea, the two nations' chief negotiators held a low-profile meeting today, a South Korean official said.

Hours after South Korea announced it was quitting the talks in Beijing and sending its delegation home, North Korean officials requested a meeting between the lead negotiators, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. Talks broke down Thursday over ways to reunite separated families on the divided Korean peninsula.

The South's vice unification minister, Yang Young-Shik, and North Korea's Pak Yong Su met this morning, South Korean embassy spokesman Han Jae-heuk said. No details were available.

Indian Troops Close In on Key Kashmir Peak

DRAS, India -- Indian soldiers in Kashmir were poised to recapture a strategic Himalayan peak held by Islamic guerrillas after seizing surrounding ridges in heavy fighting, local commanders said.

Soldiers used shoulder-fired missiles to destroy rebel fortresses dug into the rocky ridges below 16,500-foot Tiger Hill overlooking the region's only highway, said the operation's commanders, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Panda Expert Sees Hazards in Cloning

BEIJING -- One of China's foremost panda experts has warned that attempts to clone the rare animal may detract from efforts to preserve the species in the wild, the official New China News Agency reported.

Cloning will not guarantee the diversity and quality of panda genes and "will be of no significance to their conservation," the news service quoted Pan Wenshi as saying.

Institutes backed by the Chinese government began researching ways to clone pandas two years ago. Last month, scientists announced that they had grown an embryo that contains a dead panda's genes.

EUROPE

Russian Reforms Keyed to Loans Go Forward

MOSCOW -- The Russian government approved key economic reforms, apparently inspired by the improved prospects of a badly needed foreign loan.

The Central Bank announced that it was lifting a major currency-trading restriction, and the upper house of parliament approved several economic bills -- all conditions for securing a $4.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund.

An IMF team that visited Moscow this week praised Russia's economic performance and indicated lending soon could be resumed.

Court Bars New Inquiries Into Diana's Death

PARIS -- A French appeals court rejected requests for further inquiries in the probe of the car crash that killed Princess Diana.

The ruling means that Judge Herve Stephan's investigation could be officially over by the end of August, judicial officials said on customary condition of anonymity. Lawyers for Mohamed Fayed, whose son Dodi also died in the crash, and for the family of driver Henri Paul, another victim, presented their requests in May.

American Nominated to Head Interpol

LYON, France -- Former Treasury undersecretary Ronald K. Noble was nominated as the next leader of Interpol.

Noble, 42, served as undersecretary for enforcement from July 1994 to February 1996 and assistant secretary for enforcement from 1993-94.

The choice to replace Raymond E. Kendall, a Briton who has held the post for 14 years, will be proposed to next year's General Assembly, the international police organization said. The nomination by Interpol's executive committee all but assures Noble's success.

THE MIDDLE EAST

U.S. Planes Strike Iraqi Communications Site

ANKARA, Turkey -- U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi communications site in the northern "no-fly" zone after being fired upon by Iraqi antiaircraft artillery, a U.S. military statement said.

Air Force F-16s and F-15s dropped precision-guided bombs on a communications site used by Iraqi forces to relay radar information to antiaircraft artillery in the northern no-fly zone, the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said.

The site was located southeast of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, 250 miles north of Baghdad, the Iraqi capital.

Iranian Ex-President Praises U.S. Overtures

TEHRAN -- Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani suggested that he welcomed recent U.S. overtures to Iran despite past U.S. "crimes" against the Islamic republic.

"Fortunately the Americans are beginning to regret having alienated themselves so much from the great Iran," Rafsanjani, a Shiite Muslim cleric, told worshipers gathered at Tehran University for Friday prayers.

Iran Says Rebels Killed After Bombings

TEHRAN -- Iran said its security forces killed three armed rebels as they tried to slip back into neighboring Iraq after setting off explosions in western Iran.

State-run Tehran radio quoted an Intelligence Ministry statement as saying its agents had surrounded and killed the three members of the Iraq-based People's Mujaheddin opposition group, which had hijacked a car and taken its driver hostage.

FOR THE RECORD

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia beheaded a Jordanian man and a Nigerian for smuggling drugs into the kingdom, Saudi state television reported, bringing to 49 the number of people put to death in the kingdom this year.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Taiwan needs a strong president, not a strongman."

Taiwanese presidential hopeful James Soong