Japanese Plane Hijacked, Pilot Killed

TOKYO -- A man with a knife hijacked a Japanese jumbo jet carrying 517 people today and fatally stabbed the pilot before the plane landed safely, officials said.

The All Nippon Airways 747 was traveling from Tokyo's Haneda airport to the northern island of Hokkaido when the hijacking occurred about 30 minutes after takeoff, Transport Ministry spokesman Hitoshi Ishiyama said. The hijacker entered the cockpit and threatened the crew with a kitchen knife, he said.

The pilot, Naoyuki Nagashima, 51, contacted air traffic controllers and overpowered the unidentified hijacker but was fatally injured in the struggle, another ministry official said. It was unclear when the pilot died and whether he or a co-pilot landed the plane.

The jet returned to Tokyo about noon, more than an hour after it had taken off. The hijacker was arrested, officials said, and no passengers were injured.

The ministry was unable to say what demands, if any, the hijacker had made. Japanese television reported that the hijacker had demanded to go to the U.S. Air Force base in Yokota, western Tokyo.

It was the first hijack-related death on a Japanese plane, although 19 other Japanese planes have been hijacked since 1970.

Indonesia Suspends Suharto Investigation

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Prosecutors suspended a corruption investigation of Indonesia's former president, saying they would wait until he recovers from a stroke before resuming the inquiry. Doctors say former president Suharto's condition is improving. However, the 78-year-old retired general was seeing only close relatives while he recuperates at a Jakarta hospital.

"He is sick, so the attorney general's office will suspend his case," said acting Attorney General Ismudjoko, who like Suharto and many other Indonesians uses only one name.

Mongolian Leaders Quit After Confidence Vote

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia -- Mongolia's government resigned after losing a parliamentary vote of confidence, 41-22.

The government is the third to collapse in 15 months, adding yet another blow to Mongolia's efforts to achieve the political stability needed to attract foreign aid and investment.


Co-Host Is Called Suspect in TV Star's Death

MEXICO CITY -- The co-host of popular talk show personality Francisco "Paco" Stanley emerged as a suspect in his friend's slaying and was placed under house arrest, authorities said.

Susana Manterola, a spokeswoman for the Mexico City attorney general's office, said Mario Bezares' detention was sought after authorities discovered he was planning to leave the country. She called him "a suspect" in the crimes of homicide and aggravated assault.

Bezares spent more than a decade as the hyper-energetic foil to Stanley, a television staple who hosted talk and variety shows for 20 years. He was gunned down June 7 by hit men who fired two dozen rounds into his sport-utility vehicle. He and Bezares had just wrapped up the morning variety show "One After Another."


AIDS Is Top Killer in Southern, Eastern Africa

NAIROBI -- AIDS killed 1.4 million people in eastern and southern Africa last year, overtaking armed conflicts as the No. 1 killer in the region, the U.N. Children's Fund said yesterday.

The epidemic, which has hit these portions of the African continent harder than it has anywhere else in the world, has left 6 million children orphaned in eastern and southern Africa, amounting to 70 percent of the world's AIDS orphans, said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Stephen Lewis.

Forty-eight percent of the world's AIDS cases are in this region, Lewis said during the release of UNICEF's annual report on AIDS. It called for emergency action to curb the spread of AIDS in Africa.

Zimbabwe Court Suspends Americans' Trial

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The trial of three Americans charged in Zimbabwe with unlawful possession of weapons was adjourned after the defense said it was not able to examine all its witnesses by the end of the week.

Defense lawyer Jeremy Callow also hinted his team might challenge President Robert Mugabe's use of sweeping powers to allow prison authorities to maintain strict jail conditions for the three.

John Lamonte Dixon, 36, Gary George Blanchard, 34, and Joseph Wendell Pettijohn, 35, were arrested at Harare airport on March 7 and face charges of possessing and attempting to load dangerous and illegal weapons onto an aircraft. They face life in prison.

Nigerian House Speaker Resigns in Scandal ABUJA, Nigeria The scandal-stricken speaker of Nigeria s seven-week-old lower house of assembly resigned following allegations of forgery and perjury against him. Salisu Buhari was quickly replaced by Ghali Na Abba as speaker of the 360-member House of Representatives, a position ranking fourth in Nigeria s constitutional hierarchy after President Olusegun Obasanjo, the vice president and Senate (upper house) speaker.


Yeltsin Authorizes Talks on Nuclear Arms

MOSCOW -- President Boris Yeltsin authorized his prime minister to discuss reducing nuclear arms with the United States, including a review of the long-delayed START II treaty, the prime minister said.

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who visited Yeltsin at his residence west of Moscow, is to leave Sunday for the United States.

START II, which would cut Russian and American nuclear stocks to a maximum of 3,500 warheads each, has languished in the parliament's lower house, the State Duma, since it was signed in 1993. Stepashin did not elaborate on what Yeltsin said about arms reduction.


Iranian Group Reports Continued Arrests

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- A pro-democracy Iranian student group accused authorities of continuing arrests, beatings and forced confessions, despite official statements that political detentions had stopped. The Council of Student Protesters, which speaks for democracy demonstrators who this month staged six days of protests, said in a statement that "a wave of arrests" had begun after a crackdown on the demonstrations.


UNITED NATIONS -- Tonga, a small South Pacific nation of about 150 islands located 2,350 miles east of Australia, has applied for membership in the United Nations.

MINSK, Belarus -- Using clubs and tear gas, police broke up a street demonstration of 5,000 people and arrested more than 50 who were protesting Wednesday against authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, opposition groups said.


"I joined Falun [Gong] because they offered me some hope."

Li Minghui, a member of the sect banned by Chinese authorities -- Page A24