NATO Leaders Confer on Balkan Troops

TORONTO--NATO defense ministers yesterday stressed the need to maintain a 50,000-soldier intervention force in Kosovo to keep a lid on violence in the Yugoslav province, despite the rebel Kosovo Liberation Army's recent agreement to disband.

Ministers from the 19 member countries also reached consensus on reducing the 30,000-soldier NATO-led force in Bosnia to about 20,000. A formal decision on that reduction will not be made until later in the fall, however.

Gathered for two days of talks, the ministers took a hard look at the disparity in military capability among the allies and examined overall commitment of resources to the Balkans. With 80,000 troops in Bosnia and Kosovo, many countries feel they are stretched thin. Many of the allies want to reorganize the two operations, perhaps combining headquarters and some logistical and support forces for better efficiency.

Barak Calls for German Compensation

BERLIN--Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, beginning a symbolic visit to the restored German capital of Berlin, called on German business to end delays in compensating people made slaves by the Nazis. "We are already more than 50 years after the end of the war. It's urgent since the people involved are very old," Barak said after talks with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. "Every effort should be invested in trying to solve it in the near future and in an appropriate way."

Schroeder, welcoming the first official guest since the German government ended its post-war exile in Bonn this summer, echoed the call. He said he hoped the companies could begin payments this year.

Protestants, Catholics Meet in N. Ireland

BELFAST--U.S. mediator George Mitchell stepped up efforts to rescue Northern Ireland's troubled peace pact by convening face-to-face talks between Protestant and Roman Catholic politicians. The two-hour session between the main Protestant political group, the Ulster Unionist Party, and the Irish Republican Army's political ally Sinn Fein went on for longer than expected, and some officials said more meetings were likely.

But there was no suggestion from either side of progress toward ending a long-standing deadlock over guerrilla disarmament and the formation of a power-sharing executive body in the British province.


Hurricane Gert Batters Bermuda

HAMILTON, Bermuda--Hurricaine Gert whipped up waves 10 feet high that smashed the walls off seaside cottages and washed away three miles of Bermuda's prime beach, including the famed Pink Beach.

But there were no reports of injuries as Gert's outer edge whipped the island with gusts up to 110 mph, according to meteorologist Todd Kimberlain of the U.S. Hurricane Center in Miami. Thunderstorms inundated low-lying areas, flooding some roads and blocking others with uprooted trees and boulders, police spokeswoman Evelyn James Barnett said.

At 5 p.m. EDT, Gert's center was about 175 miles east-northeast of Bermuda and moving north-northeast at 20 mph, forecasters at the Hurricane Center said.

Oil Exploration Permit Angers Tribe

BOGOTA, Colombia--The Colombian government granted Occidental Petroleum a license to explore for oil next to Indian lands--a step a tribe says could spell death for its people and culture. Calling the cultural threat and the environmental impact minimal, the government said it granted the license to promote Colombia's economic development.

Environment Minister Juan Mayr announced the decision to allow the Los Angeles-based company to conduct exploratory drilling just outside a 543,000-acre reserve inhabited by the tiny U'wa Indian nation of 8,000 members.

Last month, the government expanded the tribe's reservation nearly four-fold. The semi-nomadic U'wa fish and farm in the hilly forested territory near Colombia's border with Venezuela. Mayr denied the U'wa were given the land to make them favorably disposed toward the oil exploration permit.


Japanese Premier Re-elected Party Head

TOKYO--Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi easily won re-election as head of his party, ensuring that Japan will keep pumping public money into the economy to spur recovery.

Obuchi's campaign stressed that he needed another term as prime minister to make sure that the economic turnaround his policies helped engineer keeps going. He has repeatedly promised to pass a substantial economy-boosting package as soon as he won re-election.

The head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party automatically becomes prime minister because the party controls the majority in both houses of parliament.

N. Korea Asks U.S. to Lift More Sanctions

SEOUL--North Korea welcomed the partial lifting of U.S. economic sanctions and asked for the remaining sanctions to be removed as well. "It is a good development, though it is not comprehensive and came belatedly," said the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea's official overseas news outlet. "The United States should show good faith by lifting the remaining sanctions."

The response came four days after Washington partially lifted a half-century of restrictions against the North as part of a new policy of engaging the impoverished communist country.

Filipinos Protest Constitution Changes

MANILA--More than 100,000 protesters marched to oppose President Joseph Estrada's plan to rewrite the constitution. Warning against the return of dictatorship, church and leftist groups joined forces in demonstrations in Manila and major provincial cities.

Manila's Roman Catholic Archbishop Cardinal Jaime Sin and other rally leaders, including former president Corazon Aquino, have expressed fear Estrada is pushing to change the constitution to remove a provision limiting a president to one six-year term.

Jailed Official Chosen as Candidate

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia--Malaysia's opposition coalition chose Anwar Ibrahim as its candidate for prime minister, despite the ousted deputy prime minister's six-year prison sentence for corruption.

Leaders of the four political parties that form the Alternative Front, or Barisan Alternatif, made the announcement in a statement faxed to news agencies. The statement said that if the coalition wins elections widely expected by the end of the year, it would try to overturn his conviction through a judicial inquiry into the "political conspiracy which has led to Anwar's imprisonment."


"The weevils had a field day."

-- Gerald Ochiel, of the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute, on how quickly the insects have removed quick-spreading water hyacinths from Lake Victoria, Page A25