Afghanistan Offers Talks With U.S.

KABUL, Afghanistan--In a surprise announcement, Afghanistan's governing Taliban militia said it would be willing to talk with the United States, and that the agenda was open-ended and could include suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden. The U.S. government says bin Laden masterminded the twin bombings of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania last year and wants him deported to the United States to stand trial.

"We are ready to solve all the issues with America, including that of Osama bin Laden," Information Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi said. He did not promise to hand over bin Laden.

S. Korea, Japan Seeking Closer Ties

CHEJU, South Korea--Top-ranking Japanese and South Korean government officials agreed to try to bring about the Japanese emperor's first visit to South Korea, officials said. The two countries, with historical animosities, also vowed full cooperation for the World Cup soccer finals they will co-host in 2002.

"Today, we confirmed that the partnership relations between the two countries are developing and strengthening ahead of the 2002 World Cup," said Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi on the southern resort island of Cheju.

Many Koreans still harbor bitter feelings against Japan for its brutal colonization of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.


War Criminal Imprisoned in France

PARIS--A combative Maurice Papon has begun serving a 10-year prison sentence for his role in deporting Jews to Nazi death camps. But his lawyers began seeking new legal avenues to freedom for the man nabbed two days earlier at a Swiss ski resort.

Papon, 89, was convicted in 1998 of complicity in crimes against humanity during World War II. He is confined to the Fresnes prison hospital, south of Paris.

Mitchell Extends Deadline in N. Ireland

BELFAST--Warning against "false optimism," American diplomat George Mitchell gave Northern Ireland's rival politicians a new deadline to decide whether they can resolve the stubborn arguments imperiling their peace accord.

Mitchell, who spent 22 months directing negotiations that produced the Good Friday accord of 1998, has spent the past two months attempting to remove key obstacles to making the landmark agreement work. With no breakthrough imminent, he had hoped to present final recommendations yesterday but instead offered local leaders a final few days to debate confidential ideas already on the table.

China Announces Airbus Deal in France

LYON, France--Chinese President Jiang Zemin and French President Jacques Chirac had lunch and made deals, announcing a $2.5 billion order for 28 Airbus jets--and ignoring protesters criticizing China's human rights record and its occupation of Tibet.

"It's good for Europe. It's good for France. It's good for employment," Chirac said of the order for eight Airbus A340 wide-body aircraft and 20 Airbus A318s and A319s.

Jiang, on a five-day state visit, arrived Friday for the second stage of a two-week foreign tour that took him first to Britain.


Tanzanians Bury Nyerere

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania--Military pomp and private and national grief accompanied former President Julius Nyerere to his grave in a rocky hillside in the village where he was born. Although the burial ceremony was meant to be private, Nyerere relative Moses Machege estimated that 500,000 people from across the East African country flocked to Butiama, 870 miles northwest of Dar es Salaam.

Nyerere led the drive for independence from Britain in 1961 of what was then Tanganyika and served as president from 1962 until he stepped down in 1985. He died Oct. 14 in a London hospital of complications from leukemia. He was 77.


Illinois Governor Has Rough Start in Cuba

HAVANA--Hours after Illinois Gov. George Ryan arrived leading an unprecedented and controversial state government mission to Cuba that seeks "to build bridges," the blunt-speaking Republican might have burned one.

Ryan told National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, one of three men mentioned as a successor to Cuban President Fidel Castro, that his delegation was cheered as it pulled up to the hotel. "I thought they were voters and I went to shake their hands," Ryan joked. "Maybe someday they can be voters, Mr. President."

The room went silent. International reporters who accompanied Ryan into the meeting with Alarcon were shown the door.

Ryan planned to present more than $1 million worth of humanitarian supplies donated by private firms.

Colombia to Start Talks on Civil Strife

URIBE, Colombia--An excited air pervaded this guerrilla-occupied farming town in Colombia's southern savannah on the eve of talks to end the country's long-festering civil conflict that has killed more than 30,000 people. Colombia's yellow, blue and red flag fluttered at the public basketball court and locals stopped by to see the wooden-crate stage where government and rebel negotiators will sit today to start talking peace.

Argentine Polls Predict Peronist Loss

BUENOS AIRES--Argentine President Carlos Menem dismissed polls pointing to a crushing defeat for the governing Peronist Party in today's presidential election. Polls give Argentina's center-left opposition Alliance candidate Fernando de la Rua, 62, a margin of at least 15 percentage points over Peronist candidate Eduardo Duhalde, governor of the vast Buenos Aires province. Menem is constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.


* LIMA, Peru--Milk tainted with insecticide killed at least 28 children in an Andean village of Taucamarca, many collapsing on their way home from school, officials said.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan--The Pakistani army has completed half of a promised troop pullback from the tense border with rival India, an army spokesman said.


"The choice was between Megawati and Gus Dur. It was not because they were for Gus Dur, but because they were opposed to Megawati."

-- Marzuki Darusman, Golkar party deputy chairman, explaining why party members backed Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid