ASIA

Blair Backs Clinton-Sharif Deal on Kashmir

LONDON -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair met Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday and backed an accord reached between Sharif and President Clinton to resolve the crisis in Kashmir, officials said.

Sharif, who held talks with Clinton in Washington over the weekend, met with Blair in London to discuss the fighting in Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

A spokesman for Blair said Britain welcomed a joint U.S.-Pakistani statement in which Clinton and Sharif agreed that concrete steps should be taken to restore the military Line of Control dividing the two countries. Despite the pact, Indian troops captured more peaks yesterday, and Pakistani shells blew up an oil tanker truck.

Southeast Asia Tries to Stop Forest Fires

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Southeast Asian governments announced an urgent plan to stop forest fires and avoid a repeat of the choking smog that shrouded the region two years ago.

Determined to keep skies clear for the Southeast Asia Games in Brunei next month, southeast Asian environment ministers said they had agreed to try out a coordinated, fire-prevention campaign.

The plan, which includes education, fire prevention, fire-fighting and surveillance techniques, is to be piloted in Indonesia, whose dry-season forest fires and haze contribute the most to the problem. It will be tested first in Riau province, where fires have been burning since May.

AFRICA

Ethiopia Resumes Deportations of Eritreans

ASMARA, Eritrea -- Ethiopia has resumed large-scale deportations of Eritreans, forcing out 3,000 people in the past two days, Eritrea and human rights watchers said. Ethiopia and Eritrea, neighbors and former allies in the Horn of Africa, have been at war for 13 months.

The Eritrean Foreign Ministry said in a statement that 1,410 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin were deported across the southern Burre front line near the Red Sea port of Assab on Monday.

One Million at Risk of Famine in Somalia

BAIDOA, Somalia -- More than 1 million people are at risk of famine in southern Somalia as little rain and more fighting between rival warlords ruin agricultural production, aid workers said. The Somalia Aid Coordination Body, an umbrella group of donor nations, U.N. agencies and aid groups, appealed in a new report for $17.5 million from foreign donors to help stave off a new humanitarian disaster.

Journalists Group Slams Sierra Leone PARIS A Paris-based international press rights group accused Sierra Leone s rebel Revolutionary United Front (RUF) of engaging in the systematic elimination of journalists. Reporters Without Borders said it had already accused the RUF of murdering one American and seven local journalists in January during a running conflict in the country where the rebels are now negotiating their entry into the government. The group said it sent a delegation last month to Guinea to meet some 20 journalists from Sierra Leone and their accounts confirm . . . the RUF s deliberate and systematic policy to eliminate journalists.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Israel Arrests Islamic Militants in West Bank

HEBRON, West Bank -- Israel arrested five Islamic militants in the West Bank on suspicion that they planned a terrorist attack in Israel, the Israel army radio reported.

The army confirmed that arrests were made but declined to give any numbers. Palestinian police said they knew of two arrests.

According to the radio report, the militants belong to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, militant Islamic groups that oppose the peace agreements with Israel and are behind a series of attacks, including suicide bombings, aimed at scuttling the peace.

Kurdish Group Urges Supporters to Protest

ANKARA, Turkey -- Abdullah Ocalan's Kurdish rebel group urged its supporters to "increase the struggle" following a Turkish court's death sentence against him.

Apparently heeding the call, a suspected Kurdish rebel approached a police station in the southeastern city of Batman with bombs strapped to his body but was shot and killed before he could detonate them, private television NTV reported.

The group's plea appeared to contradict the views of Ocalan, who a day earlier told his lawyers he did not approve of a spate of violent acts blamed on his rebels. The seven-member executive council of the Kurdish Workers' Party said Ocalan's sentence amounted to a "death sentence for all Kurdish people."

"We invite you to increase the struggle, stand up and protest," said a statement carried by the pro-Kurdish DEM news agency.

EUROPE

Former U.S. Envoy in Belfast Urges Peace

BELFAST -- The failure of Northern Ireland's politicians to follow through with the Good Friday peace accord would be "an immense tragedy," said the American who led the negotiations.

"I am convinced genuine peace is possible, not in the distant future, but here and now," former U.S. senator George Mitchell said during a graduation ceremony in his new part-time role as chancellor of Queen's University of Belfast.

Northern Ireland's leaders are struggling to form a new Protestant-Catholic government, the central institution envisioned in the 15-month-old accord. But they are deadlocked over the issue of disarming the Irish Republican Army.

Kazakhstan Suspends Rocket Launches ALMATY, Kazakhstan Kazakhstan said it was suspending rocket launches from its Baikonur cosmodrome following the crash of a Russian telecommunications satellite, which spewed debris over the central Karaganda region. We have informed the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs about our decision to stop launches from Baikonur until reasons for the crash are fully identified and accident damage evaluated, Kazakhstan s foreign ministry said in a statement. It did not say how long the ban would remain in effect. The head of the Russian Khrunishev factory that built the crashed Proton rocket said he thought the issue could be sorted out by the end of the month.

THE AMERICAS

Mexican Officials Probe `Railroad Killer' Link

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico -- Mexican officials are exploring a possible link between the so-called railroad killer in the United States and a series of unsolved murders in this northern Mexican city.

Mexican police have asked the FBI for details of the killings allegedly committed by suspected serial killer Rafael Resendez Ramirez to see if there are any similarities, police spokesman Juan Manuel Carmona said. Resendez Ramirez, a 39-year-old Mexican national, is a suspect in eight murders near railroad tracks in Texas, Illinois and Kentucky. He has family in Juarez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso.

Since 1993, 300 women have been slain in Juarez, and about 100 cases remain unsolved. "We don't think he did all those murders," Carmona said. "But he could have committed some or maybe one."

Colombian Peace Talks Postponed BOGOTA, Colombia -- Peace talks between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, due to start today, have been postponed for two weeks amid claims by guerrilla warlords that the United States was preparing to intervene militarily in the conflict. The U.S. denied the claims.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"A historic chance has been given to us . . . if we find the same determination on the other side, no power in the world will stop us."

New Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak on the chances for peace in the Middle East -- Page A1