THE AMERICAS

Embattled Colombians Declare Curfew

BOGOTA, Colombia -- The Colombian government declared a dusk-to-dawn curfew across more than 30 percent of the country, including the outskirts of Bogota, in an effort to contain a nationwide Marxist rebel offensive.

Interior Minister Nestor Humberto Martinez made the announcement -- one of the most stringent curfews in recent memory -- just after 4 p.m. local time as guerrillas attacked security forces, raided 15 towns and bombed energy infrastructure across the country. An army spokesman said at least 64 guerrillas, six civilians and three policemen had been killed in the past 24 hours in fighting that was still raging in an eastern jungle region after nightfall.

Authorities said the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia may be preparing to storm regional capitals and could even try to stage a fresh strike on Bogota, a city of 7 million inhabitants.

The upsurge in violence came about 48 hours after heavy clashes in mountains on the edge of Bogota left up to 78 people dead -- about half of them members of a rebel unit that was planning raids on the capital.

Military leaders, however, sought to allay panic and said there was no risk that rebels -- who are due to restart peace talks with the government July 20 -- were about to seize power by force.

American in Peruvian Jail Wants to Be Moved

AREQUIPA, Peru -- American Lori Berenson, who has been jailed for life in Peru on charges she belonged to a guerrilla group, has asked to return to a harsh, high-altitude jail for top-security prisoners, a government official said.

Authorities last year moved the New Yorker from Yanamayo prison in the Andes, to the low-lying Socabaya jail in southern Peru because of health problems. Berenson, 29, who has maintained her innocence, has asked authorities to return to Yanamayo -- where rights groups have called conditions as inhumane.

She has complained of isolation in Socabaya, near the city of Arequipa, about 600 miles south of Lima, where she is allowed out of her single cell for only two hours a day. "She feels the need to have contact with other prisoners," Wilfredo Pedraza, an official at a government-run civil rights organization, said after visiting the prison Friday.

Fox Launches Mexican Presidential Bid

MEXICO CITY -- Opposition leader Vicente Fox, the front-runner in some opinion polls, formally launched his run for the presidency, becoming the first to sign up for his party's first primary election.

Fox, the governor of central Guanajuato state, is likely to run unopposed for the presidential nomination of the National Action Party, a pro-business party aligned with the conservative social policy of the Roman Catholic Church.

Some polls show him the leading candidate for the July 2000 election, but others put him a close second behind candidates from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has won every presidential election in the last 70 years.

EUROPE

Protestants Get Belfast Parade Go-Ahead

BELFAST -- Facing threats of a confrontation by Northern Ireland's major Protestant brotherhood, authorities said they would allow the group to hold a mass demonstration near hostile Catholic turf.

The Northern Ireland Parades Commission's decision to lift its earlier ban came after leaders of the Orange Order protested, raising the possibility of an ugly standoff between the group and police. The demonstration is scheduled for Monday.

The Orangemen stage marches across Northern Ireland on July 12 to commemorate a 1690 Protestant victory over Catholics. Now its 20,000 Belfast members can parade to Ormeau Park -- just across the Lagan River from the hard-line Catholic area of Lower Ormeau.

European Commission to End British Beef Ban

BRUSSELS -- A three-year ban on British beef imports, imposed after an outbreak of "mad cow" disease, is to be lifted Aug. 1, the European Union's executive body has announced. Spokesman Gerard Kiely said the European Commission probably will make the decision official Wednesday after a veterinary committee from member states gives its expected approval. EU agriculture ministers voted to lift the ban last November after British beef was deemed safe, but no date was initially set.

Irish Arrest Man in Water Poisoning Plot

DUBLIN -- Irish police arrested a man linked to a plot to kill up to a million people by poisoning England's water supply unless British troops were pulled out of Northern Ireland, authorities said.

Irish police said the man, in his fifties, was arrested at a Dublin address after a month-long investigation by British and Irish police into the plot, which involved dumping weed killer into fire hydrants.

The arrest was made as Northern Ireland headed for a crucial week in trying to salvage last year's Good Friday peace agreement that seeks to end decades of sectarian violence between the Protestant majority and Roman Catholic minority.

ASIA

India Says Pakistani Rebels Pushed Back

MUSHKOH VALLEY, India -- Indian fighter planes pounded guerrilla positions in a Himalayan battle zone amid government claims that rebels in some areas have been pushed back across the cease-fire line dividing Kashmir.

Pilots flying French-built Mirages and Russian-made MiGs dropped as much as 15 tons of explosives on Pakistan-backed rebel positions, Air Force spokesman B.M. Ganesh said.

"The enemy intrusion and aggression . . . has now been decisively turned back," Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said after a meeting with his cabinet and military commanders. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claimed it.

Woman Stranded in Antarctica to Get Supplies

CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand -- Sometime this afternoon at an isolated and winter-darkened Antarctic station, two pallets of medical supplies should be dropped from a U.S. Air Force plane -- vital supplies for a worker who has discovered a lump in her breast.

Staff at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station will attempt to retrieve the pallets, partially illuminated by strobes and chemical lights, within minutes of when they hit the ice and before they are damaged or destroyed. Weather conditions prevent the woman from getting out of Antarctica until at least October.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"It's our chance to go out and own the city."

-- Seth Hepner, college student from Berlin -- Page A21