ASIA

More Deadly Floods Feared in East Asia

MANILA -- New rains threatened parts of Asia yesterday, as much of the region was struggling to clean up from several weeks of devastating floods that killed at least 949 people and left millions homeless.

Weather forecasters said seasonal monsoons are likely to continue for much of this month in Southeast Asia, raising fears of further flooding.

The Hong Kong Observatory issued a thunderstorm warning for China last night and said heavy rains were likely to continue into today. In Thailand, forecasters predicted more heavy rains for at least the next few weeks. And in Japan and South Korea, they said a storm was approaching, bringing heavy rains and strong waves. Forecasters warned of possible landslides.

Japan Marks Atomic Attacks, Fears Conflict

HIROSHIMA, Japan -- In a nation increasingly worried about regional tensions, residents of Hiroshima recalled the moment 54 years ago when an atomic bomb leveled the city and killed 140,000 people.

About 50,000 people gathered for a silent prayer in the Peace Memorial Park at 8:15 a.m. -- the moment a U.S. atomic bomb exploded above the city on Aug. 6, 1945.

Hanging over the solemn commemoration were more recent concerns about Asian tensions, from North Korea's threat of a missile test to the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan. In a Yomiuri newspaper poll this week, 70 percent of respondents said they were fearful a war may break out near Japan.

Taliban Drives Residents from Captured Turf

GENEVA -- Afghanistan's Taliban militia appears to be forcing more than 40,000 civilians out of newly captured territory, the U.N. refugee agency said.

Troops are believed to have ordered local residents onto trucks and buses in the northern Shamali Plain area and moved them to Jalalabad and Kabul, said Judith Kumin, spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency. "It is reported that Taliban are separating women and children from the men," Kumin said, citing interviews with women arriving in Kabul and Jalalabad.

The Taliban, which controls most of Afghanistan, and opposition forces fought artillery duels just north of Kabul, signaling the return of the battle front close to the capital.

AFRICA

Sierra Leonean Rebel Orders Captives Freed

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Sierra Leone's rebel leader ordered rogue allies to free a group of hostages seized this week and played down the threat the incident could pose to the West African country's fragile peace.

Foday Sankoh made his comments as government officials and British negotiators sought the release of the 30 or so captured U.N. employees, aid workers, journalists and West African peacekeepers.

Meanwhile, a team of British diplomats, military experts and police personnel arrived in Freetown to support the hostage negotiations.

Peace Plan Presented to Eritrea, Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- The Organization of African Unity (OAU) delivered a detailed peace plan to the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea in a bid to end a 15-month war between the countries, officials said.

A special OAU delegation led by Algerian envoy Ahmed Ouyahia gave the document to Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi in Addis Ababa after presenting it to Eritrean President Issaias Afwerki in Asmara, Eritrea.

The document sets out the procedures for the implementation of an OAU Framework Agreement that both sides said they accepted in principle last month. It calls for each side to withdraw to positions occupied before fighting broke out in May 1998.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Israel Seeks Final Peace Deal by February

JERUSALEM -- Israeli negotiators told their Palestinian counterparts that they hope to agree on the broad outlines of a permanent peace accord by February, a senior aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said.

Once the outline was completed, Israel would carry out the last phase of the Wye River land-for-security agreement, said the aide, Tayeb Abdel Rahim.

In a statement issued after its weekly session, the Palestinian cabinet flatly rejected Barak's plan to enter into final status talks, insisting that the agreement be implemented immediately and take no longer than three weeks to complete.

THE AMERICAS

Peru Says Ex-President Fomented Coup

LIMA, Peru -- Peru asked Colombia to rescind former president Alan Garcia's political asylum, claiming he called for a coup in his homeland.

Peru's government also asked that it be allowed to start extradition proceedings against Garcia, who governed Peru from 1985 to 1990.

Garcia denied calling for a coup. "The only thing I asked for is the creation of a government that will guarantee free elections without fraud," he said in Paris.

Colombia's ambassador to Peru, Maria Cristina Zuleta, told reporters that her government was evaluating the request. Garcia on Thursday called for civil disobedience against President Alberto Fujimori's government after Peru's legislature approved a law effectively stopping his plans to run for Congress.

Publisher Sues Canada's Prime Minister

TORONTO -- Publisher Conrad Black, whose newspaper empire extends from Jerusalem to Vancouver, is suing Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien for thwarting Black's appointment to Britain's House of Lords.

Black, a native of Canada, lives most of the time in Britain and holds dual citizenship. He suggests in the lawsuit that Chretien intervened to block the appointment out of petulance because the prime minister was a frequent target of Black's Canadian newspapers. The lawsuit, filed Thursday in the Ontario Supreme Court, seeks about $16,000.

Volcano Forces Nicaraguans to Flee

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Some 1,360 people were evacuated as eruptions and tremors continued at Nicaragua's volatile Cerro Negro volcano, emergency officials said.

The explosions began on Thursday, spewing burning lava, ash and gases as far as five miles away, hours after tremors started along the volcanic chain about 40 miles northwest of Managua.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"In Soviet days, it was state policy to control locusts. Now there's no policy for nothing."

Anatoly Garifulin, who manages the Steppe Collective Farm in Orenburg, Russia -- Page A13