EUROPE

IRA Representative Meets With Monitors

LONDON--The Irish Republican Army, holding to a cease-fire in its guerrilla war against British rule in Northern Ireland, said yesterday that its representative had met disarmament monitors for the first time.

"The IRA leadership confirms that a meeting between our representative and the IICD [Independent International Commission of Decommissioning] has taken place," the IRA said in a statement. It did not identify the representative or say where and when the meeting took place.

The IRA, which in the past has viewed disarmament as tantamount to surrender, has not committed itself to handing in its arsenal of guns and bombs. But its decision to appoint a representative to the commission is one of the most crucial steps in an effort to bring a lasting peace to Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian strife.

Greece Deports 18 Americans in Cult

ATHENS--Greece deported 18 members of an American cult accused of planning violence and mass suicide to hasten the return of Jesus as the end of the millennium approaches.

"All 18, including five children, were American citizens," a police official said. "They were escorted to the airport and boarded a flight to New York."

Police detained the cult members on Friday saying they belonged to a group called Concerned Christians and that they had arrived in Greece after Israel expelled them in January.

Some 50 Concerned Christians, whose base is in Denver, are believed to have settled in Rafina, a small port town northeast of Athens. Their leader, Monte Kim Miller, has prophesied he will die in Jerusalem in 1999 and be resurrected three days later.

THE AMERICAS

Castro Demands Return of Rescued Boy

HAVANA--About 2,000 young Cubans marched on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, chanting anti-American slogans and demanding the return of a 5-year-old boy at the center of a custody battle between the two nations.

The march, organized by Communist youth organizations, followed an earlier demand to the United States from President Fidel Castro to return the boy within 72 hours.

Castro accused the U.S. government of kidnapping Elian Gonzalez, who was found Nov. 25 clinging to an inner tube floating off the coast of Florida. In an unusual move, the Cuban government stationed several dozen soldiers outside the U.S. interests section in Havana.

State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said last week that Cuba had asked the U.S. mission in Havana on Nov. 27 for the child's return. The case was referred to the Florida state courts because they take precedence in custody disputes, he said.

The boy, his mother and 10 others were traveling in an overloaded powerboat when it sank during the 90-mile crossing to Florida. His mother and stepfather drowned. The boy's parents were divorced.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iranian Court to Prosecute Three Papers

TEHRAN--Iran's hard-line press court is preparing to prosecute three more newspapers after the closure of several reformist publications in recent months, a judge was quoted as saying.

Judge Saeed Mortazavi, who heads the court, said the pro-reform dailies Arya and Sobh-e Emrouz and the leading hard-line newspaper Kayhan faced unspecified charges, the daily Akhbar-e Eqtesad reported.

Iran's press has been a key battleground in the fight between reformers and conservatives since the 1997 election of moderate President Mohammed Khatemi, who ushered in greater press liberties and licensed a growing number of publications.

Conservative-led courts have closed several pro-reform newspapers and sentenced publishers and editors to jail on charges of undermining Islam.

Conservative newspapers taken to court have often been acquitted or given lenient sentences. Newspapers said last month that Khatemi's office had withdrawn a suit against Kayhan, which had been accused of publishing a confidential document.

Turkish Islamic Militants Free Hostages

ISTANBUL--Imprisoned Islamic militants battled security forces in an Istanbul prison, injuring 54 soldiers and seizing 150 hostages before ending the standoff, authorities said.

Members of the Great Eastern Islamic Raiders' Front freed the hostages after negotiations with prison officials, authorities said.

Turkish television showed the prisoners massed in a courtyard of the Metris prison, waving banners with quotes from Islamic scripture at a helicopter overhead.

No information was immediately available on any terms of the hostages' release, and there were conflicting accounts of what prompted the violence.

Turkey's Anatolia news agency said it started when authorities sent in soldiers for a surprise search of the ward that houses members of the Islamic group, including leader Salih Mirzabeyoglu. But Mirzabeyoglu's lawyer said the activists rose up to block efforts to transfer some of them to different prisons.

ASIA

Clinton Half-Brother Performs in N. Korea

SEOUL--President Clinton's half-brother and two dozen South Korean pop stars performed in a concert in Communist North Korea, singing hand-in-hand and inviting top performers from the North to the stage, television reported.

Roger Clinton, a singer and band leader, arrived in the North on Thursday with 37 musicians to perform in a 2,000-seat concert hall in the capital Pyongyang.

The State Department said there was no official U.S. government connection to Clinton's visit. Nevertheless, Clinton has managed to meet high-ranking officials and visit the birthplace of the late President Kim Il Sung, news media reported.

The Korean Central News Agency, the North's overseas news outlet, identified Clinton as a U.S. pop singer, but did not mention his relationship to the president.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The future of Kosovo lies with its children. Yet one of the most alarming trends documented in the report is the increasing participation of juveniles in human rights violations."

--Bernard Kouchner, the top U.N. official in Kosovo, on a report by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe