ASIA

Bin Laden May Leave Afghanistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan--Osama bin Laden, wanted by the United States for the August 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies, has asked for permission to leave Afghanistan, the ruling Taliban said yesterday.

Bin Laden's departure could lift the threat of U.N. sanctions on Afghanistan, where he has been living for years. The Taliban has resisted pressure from the United States to hand him over to be tried on charges of planning the bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 213 people.

The United Nations has threatened to impose sanctions on Afghanistan if it does not turn over bin Laden by Nov. 14 for trial in the United States or another country.

A Clinton administration official, who insisted on anonymity, said the U.S. government had seen the report of bin Laden's request, but that it "falls far short" of the U.N. resolution.

Indonesian Occupation of E. Timor Ends

DILI, East Timor--With Indonesian troops clustered at the rail, a gray transport ship slowly pulled from the Dili harbor early today, quietly ending the 24-year occupation of this former Indonesian territory that left thousands dead.

Their departure from East Timor marks the end of a long and fruitless struggle by the world's most populous Muslim country to subdue a small, stubbornly separatist Roman Catholic province on its eastern fringe.

THE AMERICAS

Motorists Visiting Mexico to Pay Deposits

MEXICO CITY--The Mexican government has set Dec. 1 as the date when drivers of U.S.-registered cars will have to pay deposits of up to $800 when they enter Mexico.

The Foreign Secretariat announced the new date a day after the government said it would postpone and revise the program. It had been scheduled to begin Nov. 1.

Mexican officials said the deposits are needed to prevent the illegal sale of U.S.-registered cars in Mexico. U.S. officials said the new requirement could hurt trade and tourism. The deposits will be $400 for cars produced in 1994 or earlier, $600 for models from 1995 to 1998, and $800 for cars made this year or later.

EUROPE

Conciliatory Comments in N. IrelandBELFAST--The two parties long at loggerheads over Northern Ireland's peace accord said they now understand each other's position, but said they were not yet prepared to shift their own to break the deadlock.

Conciliatory comments from the pro-Irish Roman Catholics of Sinn Fein and the pro-British Protestants of the Ulster Unionists have been the only result so far of eight weeks of negotiations led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell, who helped achieve the Good Friday accord 18 months ago.

The talks adjourned late yesterday, and Mitchell said the parties would meet again Monday.

Mitchell, who had returned with reluctance to Northern Ireland at the request of the British and Irish governments, had promised a sharply focused review of why local parties have not enacted key provisions of the foundering accord.

Armenians Mourn Assassinated Leaders

YEREVAN, Armenia--Thousands of Armenians packed Yerevan's central square to mourn the prime minister and seven others who were gunned down in parliament.

Soldiers carried their open coffins through a throng of about 20,000 in Freedom Square and into the black crepe-draped opera house. They were laid side by side on the stage, with large portraits of the victims propped in front and candelabras behind.

The families of Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and the other officials who were killed Wednesday sat in the front rows of the opera house, while dignitaries including Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin filed in and placed flowers near the coffins.

Germany to Ban Cell Phone Use by Drivers

BERLIN--A German law banning the use of cell phones while driving is to take effect next year.

Transport Minister Reinhard Klimmt told a newspaper that the government plans to fine drivers $32 for talking on a cell phone without using a hands-free device like a speaker phone.

Some U.S. Troops to Leave BosniaTUZLA, Bosnia--About 30 percent of U.S. troops in NATO-led peacekeeping forces in Bosnia will be sent home by next April, NATO officials said.

The reduction is part of NATO plan to reduce the number of troops because of improved security conditions in Bosnia, according to Maj. Gen. James Campbell, commander of Multinational Division North.

About 6,200 U.S. men and women are among the 31,000 NATO-led peacekeepers in Bosnia, responsible for helping to carry out the Dayton peace agreement, which ended the 1992-95 war.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Saudi Bombing Suspect Questioned

KUWAIT CITY--A top Saudi cabinet minister was quoted as saying that Saudi Arabia was still questioning a dissident extradited from the United States for suspected links to a 1996 bombing that killed 19 Americans.

Interior Minister Prince Nayef, a brother of Saudi King Fahd, told the English-language newspaper Arab News that he appreciated Washington's role in the extradition of Hani Abdel Rahim Sayegh but rejected any foreign intervention in the investigation into the bombing at Dhahran.

Reformer Goes on Trial in Iran

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates--Abdollah Nouri, a popular supporter of reforms, went on trial in Iran in what was seen as a bid by hard-liners to marginalize him before key legislative elections in February. Nouri, a close ally of President Mohammed Khatemi, is a former interior minister and head of the popular Khordad daily newspaper. The charges he faces are some of the most serious ever brought against a senior politician in Iran's Islamic government.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The Christian people come to our villages, they tear up photographs of our gods and say that their Christ is a super-God."

--Khom Singh Bhai, a tribal leader in India's Madhya Pradesh state.

--Page A31