ASIA

Indian Troops Approach Abandoned Positions

KARGIL, India -- Indian soldiers wearing white snow boots and thick jackets moved deliberately over a frigid Himalayan battle zone yesterday, hoping to take up positions once held by retreating Islamic guerrillas.

With the evacuation deadline set for today, the soldiers reported seeing militants moving back toward the cease-fire line that divides Indian- and Pakistani-held Kashmir. For the first time since the conflict began, no Pakistani artillery shelling was reported by India.

In New Delhi, supporters of Shiv Sena, a key Hindu nationalist party, urged the government to order troops to kill the militants as they withdraw and called for suspension of bus travel between India and Pakistan.

Reactor Leak More Serious Than Reported

TOKYO -- An accident at a Japanese nuclear reactor this week caused a radiation leak 11,500 times above the safety limit, the company operating the facility said.

The Japan Atomic Power Co. insists that no radiation escaped into the environment during Monday's accident, caused by a cracked pipe in the building that houses the reactor. But the leak's magnitude was significantly higher than the company's original estimate of levels 250 times higher than safety standards.

China Charges Opposition Party Member

BEIJING -- Liu Xianbin, a veteran Chinese dissident who was arrested July 2, was charged Wednesday with "subverting state power" and "is certain to be punished heavily," the Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China said in a statement faxed to reporters.

Liu is a leading member of the banned China Democracy Party. About 200 members of the party have been detained since April, according to the Hong Kong-based information center.

EUROPE

Newspaper: Russia Making Chemical Arms

OSLO -- For the last 15 years, Russia has been operating a secret plant for producing and storing chemical weapons just east of Murmansk on the Kola peninsula, the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang said.

Verdens Gang said it had uncovered the site in a forest a mile from Murmansk in northeastern Russia after a two-year search.

Norway, which shares a 120-mile border with Russia at the Kola peninsula, said it had approached Russian authorities over the article.

"The Russians have told us today that there is no change in their position, which is that there is no storage, research or decommissioning of chemical weapons in the Kola region," said Sigvald Hauge, acting spokesman at Norway's Foreign Ministry.

Court Expands Definition of Bosnian War

THE HAGUE -- In a decision that could open the door to many more prosecutions of Bosnian War atrocities, the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal rejected a Bosnian Serb's appeal and convicted him on additional charges, including five more murders.

In ruling against Dusan Tadic, the five-judge appeals panel for the first time classified the 1992-95 war as an international armed conflict rather than an internal affair. That means the tribunal will now be able to seek more serious charges in cases involving atrocities committed against civilians, who are protected only by the 1949 Geneva Conventions during international wars.

Greek Police Kill Albanian Bus Hijacker

FLORINA, Greece -- An Albanian hijacker died in a burst of sniper fire as Greek special police forces stormed a bus and released unharmed five remaining hostages.

The assault, near this northern Greek town, ended a standoff of nearly 30 hours between police and the hijacker, who was demanding guns, $780,000 ransom and safe passage to Albania.

THE AMERICAS

Venezuelan President Bows to Electoral Panel

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez bowed to an order to stop promoting his candidates for next week's Constitutional Assembly elections but warned that any attempt to postpone the vote would have dangerous consequences.

Chavez agreed to obey an electoral authority ruling to pull his weekly radio and television programs off the air and stop campaigning in street rallies.

He also said he would pay a fine of about $7,600 that the National Electoral Council imposed for his repeated attempts to promote his allies for the July 25 vote to elect a 131-member assembly. That body will have six months to write a new constitution.

Court Drops Charge Against Mexican Banker

MEXICO CITY -- A court has thrown out one of the last two charges remaining against a former financier accused of swindling his bank out of millions of dollars.

The court granted an injunction Wednesday blocking a charge that Angel Isidoro Rodriguez Saez arranged for his bank, Banpais, to make $6.3 million in illegal loans to companies he owned. The court ruled that the charge was filed two months after the statute of limitations had expired, Mexican news media reported.

With two other charges against him already dropped, Rodriguez now faces only a charge of violating stock trading laws.

Cuba to Try Americans on Smuggling Charges

HAVANA -- Cuba said it will try two Americans suspected of smuggling migrants, who were arrested following an accident this month in which one of their alleged passengers drowned.

A government statement said Joel Dorta Garcia and David Garcia Capote will be tried under recently toughened laws that called for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment for cases of migrant smuggling involving death, danger or violence.

FOR THE RECORD

PARIS -- British Airways was ordered to pay $4 million to 61 French passengers whose plane made an unexpected stop in Kuwait the day the Persian Gulf War began. The passengers were taken hostage by Iraq, which used them as "human shields."

MOSCOW -- Russia will launch a vital cargo ship to the Mir space station today, now that Kazakhstan has lifted a ban on using its cosmodrome, a Russian space official said.

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe accused Congolese rebels and their allies, Rwanda and Uganda, of troop movements that threaten government supply lines, a breach of Congo's partial cease-fire.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"The last thing the people of Northern Ireland need now is an outbreak of recriminations."

-- Marjorie Mowlam, Britain's cabinet minister for Northern Ireland