Japan May Ban Remittances to N. Korea

TOKYO -- Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura said that if North Korea tests a new missile, Tokyo may respond by severing one of the impoverished communist country's only sources of hard cash: money sent from friends and family in Japan.

More than 250,000 Koreans with ties to the North reside in Japan, and while there is no official estimate of how much money they send home, experts say it is hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Until now, Japan has not threatened to ban the remittances, fearing such a move could trigger a negative reaction in Japan and instability in North Korea. But in a television appearance, Komura brought up the possibility of a cutoff and said Japan may take other "drastic steps" if Pyongyang goes through with the launch. "All measures are possible," Komura said.

Komura's warning came even as North Korea said it would ignore such threats and test another missile. The new missile, reportedly a Taepodong II, is capable of reaching Hawaii or Alaska.

China Says Pope Can't Visit Hong Kong

HONG KONG -- China has barred Pope John Paul II from visiting Hong Kong during his Asian tour later this year, citing the Vatican's diplomatic ties with rival Taiwan, Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen said today.

"The mainland [China] says the Vatican has ties with Taiwan and no ties with us. Therefore, such a visit is not convenient," Zen said.

Zen said the pope had hoped his tour would include Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 after 156 years as a British colony. It would have been the first papal visit since a three-hour stopover by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

The Vatican had hoped Beijing would relent so that the pontiff could hold a Mass for Hong Kong's 3750,000 Catholics.

Militants Attack Indian Camp in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India -- Islamic militants rained rockets and mortar fire on an Indian army camp near the Pakistani border yesterday, the third major attack in Kashmir in three days.

One soldier was killed and six others wounded, initial police reports said. The attack took place at Trehgam, a brigade headquarters 75 miles north of Srinagar, the state capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

U.S. Lawmakers Arrive in Taiwan for Talks

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Seven members of Congress arrived in Taipei to confer with Taiwanese leaders over the recent sharp rise in tensions with China. The delegation, led by Rep. Benjamin A. Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, is to meet with President Lee Teng-hui today, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said.


Rebels Free Some Captives in Sierra Leone

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Rebels holding about three dozen hostages in Sierra Leone freed some of them yesterday, the fifth day of their captivity, sources close to U.N. officials who negotiated their release said.

At least 17 people were freed, including seven U.N. military observers, six local drivers, two members of the West African peace force, two journalists, a Ghanaian aid worker and a Sierra Leonean official, according to figures from U.N. officials and other sources. Another 17 remained captive.

A diplomat close to the negotiations told the Reuters news service that the rebels had planned to free all the hostages yesterday but that heavy rains and poor communications had delayed the plan. Diplomats predicted that all would be free by today.


Palestinians Hold 3 Hamas Leaders in Gaza

GAZA CITY -- The Palestinian Authority announced it has arrested three leaders of the militant Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, in the Gaza Strip.

Israel has pressed the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Hamas, which opposes the Palestinian peace agreement with Israel and has killed scores of Israelis in suicide attacks. Hamas's military wing claimed responsibility for a shooting on Saturday that wounded two Jewish settlers in the West Bank town of Hebron.

Iraq Lashes Out at Iran on Anniversary

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- President Saddam Hussein accused Iran of joining the United States and Israel in laying siege to Iraq, 11 years after the war between the Persian Gulf neighbors ended.

In a speech marking the anniversary of the end of the Iraq-Iran war of 1980-88, Saddam Hussein also accused Iran of betraying its Islamic principles. "Iran, like Iraq's other neighbors, is mounting a siege that incites the American and Zionist aggressors to kill the Iraqi people," he said, apparently referring to Iran's support for U.N. sanctions enforced against Iraq since its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.


Ailing Guyanese President Steps Down

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Guyanese President Janet Jagan, 78, announced that she is resigning because of health problems and named Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo, 35, as her successor.

The U.S.-born Jagan was elected president of the former British colony in 1997 and was to serve until 2001. She was hospitalized in the United States last month after a mild heart attack. In her televised announcement, she said her energy and stamina have been greatly reduced since then.

Rebels Vow to Free Plane's Passengers

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Colombia's largest rebel group promised to free 14 passengers from a Venezuelan plane that disappeared last month, although the rebels insisted they had not hijacked the flight.

The plane's two-man crew flew the aircraft to Venezuela yesterday, but the passengers remained in Colombia, Venezuela's interior minister said. A woman claiming to represent the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said one of its units discovered the downed plane near the border with Venezuela a day after it disappeared July 30.


"We go to funerals, we go to wakes, we act as pallbearers and yet we don't draw the relationship to the pollution."

Eric Brophy, resident of Sydney, Nova Scotia, on the town's toxic waste problems -- Page A9