THE AMERICAS

Cuba to Crack Down on Alien Smugglers

HAVANA -- Cuba announced a law yesterday that will fine the owners and operators of boats used to illegally transport Cubans to the United States. The publishing of the new law in the Communist Party daily Granma came amid increased tensions here and in Miami over illegal immigration by Cubans.

The law approved by Cuba's Council of State, led by President Fidel Castro, establishes fines ranging from $500 to $10,000 for operators or owners of boats used to smuggle people. The law is apparently aimed at discouraging Cubans from taking to the sea either on their own vessels or boats operated by smugglers who charge as much as $8,000 for the journey across the Florida Straits.

Sixteen Killed in Nicaraguan Plane Crash

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Fourteen passengers and two crew members were killed when a commercial plane crashed on a remote hillside near Nicaragua's Caribbean coast Tuesday, the airline said after finding the wreckage. "The plane crashed for unknown reasons, and no survivors were found," said Alfredo Caballero, owner of the Nicaraguan airline La Costena. The wreckage of the Cessna 208 Caravan was discovered on a forested hillside about 150 miles east of Managua.

Guyana's Leader Seeks Health Care in U.S.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Guyanese President Janet Jagan left for the United States to undergo medical tests and receive care three weeks after she was hospitalized for treatment of a heart condition. The American-born Jagan, 78, has been under medical care since the three-day hospital stay. Officials at St. Joseph's Mercy Hospital in Guyana said she was treated for the heart condition angina, exhaustion and diabetes. The government has not said where in the United States Jagan will undergo treatment, although one source said she went to Ohio.

ASIA

Kashmir Fighting Continues Despite Pact

KARGIL, India -- Pakistani shells struck the largest town in Indian-controlled Kashmir despite an agreement to halt more than two months of fighting. The bombardment targeted an army headquarters and civilian areas. Kargil was plunged into darkness as frightened residents switched off lights after about 40 shells landed in an hour-long period. Cars raced to safety with their lights off.

In Islamabad, a guerrilla group that said it is fighting in the mountains above Kargil dismissed efforts to restore peace to the region. "Mujahedeen [holy warriors] consider withdrawal a sin. We have to choose only between victory or martyrdom," said Bakhat Zameen Khan, chief of the guerrilla group al-Badar. "Fighting with Indians in Kashmir is not over."

THE MIDDLE EAST

Khatemi Moves Against Hard-Liners in Iran

TEHRAN -- Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi and his reformist allies, accused of failing to defend the Islamic system during recent unrest, moved against hard-line publications that had challenged him. The Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry, firmly under Khatemi's control, said it had moved against three newspapers after they published a letter by Revolutionary Guards commanders criticizing Khatemi and warning that their patience for "insults against the system" was running out.

The ministry said the Guards' letter to the president was classified "top secret" and its printing violated the press law. It said it had sent the case to an advisory committee, a prelude to legal action by a press court, which can close the dailies.

Turkey Arrests Kurdish Rebel in Moldova

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey arrested a leading Kurdish guerrilla in Moldova, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said, five months after rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan was captured in Kenya. German officials confirmed that Cevat Soysal, who had political asylum in Germany, was arrested five days ago. The rebel Kurdish Workers' Party played down Soysal's importance and insisted he was not seized but handed over to Turkish authorities by Moldova. In a police interrogation this year, Ocalan said Soysal was in charge of training rebels abroad.

EUROPE

Mitchell Tries to Salvage Good Friday Accord

BELFAST -- The American architect of Northern Ireland's faltering peace accord met with key parties in hopes of paving the way for formation of a provincial government.

Former U.S. senator George Mitchell plans in September to review the problems in implementing the Good Friday accord of 1998, stalled by an argument over the Irish Republican Army's refusal to disarm. Mitchell was called in again by the British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, after Northern Ireland's Protestant and Catholic parties missed yet another deadline for forming their coalition government.

Russian Official Says Mir Should Be Scrapped

MOSCOW -- A top Russian official said what NASA has been waiting to hear for months: Russia should scrap its Mir space station and concentrate on contributing to the international space station. Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov said the 13-year-old Mir has served its purpose and is falling into disrepair, the Interfax news agency reported.

Klebanov said the government can't afford to pay $250 million a year to operate Mir and should focus instead on building the international space station with NASA.

ASIA

Suharto's Condition Improves After Stroke

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Former president Suharto has a good chance of a complete recovery after suffering a mild stroke and could soon be back to normal, doctors said. Suharto, 78, who ruled Indonesia for 32 years before being forced to step down last year, was sitting up and receiving visitors in his hospital room, a day after being admitted. Doctors carried out tests including a CT scan and said Suharto's condition had improved. "There is a problem with blood vessels in his brain, but he can still talk and we hope that he will improve today," said Sudjono Martoatmodjo, the director of Pertamina Hospital in Jakarta.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We don't want to do anything to create confusion or misunderstanding."

Taiwan's chief government spokesman Chen Chien-jen, on its policy toward China -- Page A20