THE AMERICAS

Colombian Rebels Vow to Fight Extradition

BOGOTA, Colombia--Colombia's largest Marxist rebel group warned it would step up its long-standing opposition to extraditions but ruled out launching a wave of bomb attacks--as some opponents of the policy have done--to prevent Colombians being sent abroad for trial.

"The FARC has reiterated its opposition to the extradition of any Colombian on the grounds it violates national sovereignty," Paul Reyes, senior commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), told El Espectador newspaper in an interview published yesterday.

Colombia banned the extradition of its citizens in 1991 after Pablo Escobar, leader of the now-defunct Medellin drug cartel, waged a bloody campaign of bombings and kidnappings. The Colombian congress, however, lifted the ban in late 1997 under intense pressure from the United States.

Some Colombian officials say the FARC's opposition to extradition is evidence of the growing alliance between the rebels and drug traffickers--until now the prime targets of extradition.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Saudi Gets Reprieve to Raise Blood Money

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia--A Saudi teenager who was scheduled to be executed yesterday has won a month-long reprieve while his family tries to collect more than $1 million that could save his life, the daily al-Madinah newspaper reported.

Abdul Aziz, 17, was convicted of murder. He killed an unidentified victim by accidentally hitting him on the head with a stick during a traditional dance two years ago.

The victim's family, also Saudi, has said it would accept $1.3 million in exchange for granting clemency. Under the Islamic law enforced in the kingdom, the victim's family has the right to spare the life of a convicted murderer, demand an execution or ask for blood money in exchange for clemency.

EUROPE

N. Ireland Militia Ready for Arms Talks

BELFAST--The Ulster Freedom Fighters, one of Northern Ireland's main Protestant paramilitary groups, gave a boost to the peace process by announcing that it is ready to join talks on disarmament.

The pro-British group said it would appoint representatives to meet retired Canadian general John de Chastelain, who heads a commission set up to oversee disarmament under the province's peace process.

Under the 1998 Good Friday peace accord, brokered by former U.S. senator George J. Mitchell, Catholic and Protestant politicians this month formed a local government for Northern Ireland.

The main Protestant party, the Ulster Unionists, agreed to go into government with Sinn Fein before its Irish Republican Army allies give up the guns they have used to fight British rule. But the Ulster Freedom Fighters stressed that "disarmament would only be considered in the context of the IRA having already begun to decommission its arsenal."

France Continues Ban on British Beef

PARIS--France decided to maintain its ban on British beef imports because of fears of mad cow disease, setting the stage for a legal battle with London.

In a statement, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's government attributed its decision to a "lack of sufficient guarantees" on several points. The decision came after a meeting by Jospin and nine ministers to consider whether to drop or continue the ban on British beef.

France's food safety agency advised the government Monday that new British and European measures reduce the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, also known as mad cow disease, but do not eradicate it completely.

The decision means that France is continuing to defy an August ruling by the European Union to end a three-year embargo on exports of British beef, originally imposed in 1996.

Family Rivalry Behind Netherlands Attack

VEGHEL, Netherlands--A feud between rival Turkish families inspired a 17-year-old student to open fire in the Netherlands' first school shooting, a brother of one of the five victims told investigators. The brother told reporters that his family had feared an attack for months and sought police protection, first in August and again on the eve of the shooting. Police confirmed that the family had requested protection and that the request was denied.

Four students and a teacher were wounded in Tuesday's attack, two of them critically.

Authorities were questioning the suspect and his father.

AFRICA

Rwanda Tribunal Targets Suspects' Funds

KIGALI, Rwanda--U.N. war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte said the U.N. tribunal for Rwanda would try to trace the bank accounts and freeze the funds of people suspected of taking part in the country's 1994 genocide.

On her first visit to Rwanda since her September appointment as chief prosecutor for the twin Yugoslavia and Rwanda tribunals, del Ponte said the move could help snare leading suspects.

"I think we should freeze the bank accounts so that judges can decide on the destination of these accounts," she told a news conference here in the capital.

"Not only could the money be confiscated to compensate victims, but also to make it impossible for them to flee."

Hundreds of thousands of people, mainly ethnic Tutsis, were slaughtered by extremist Hutus. Many of those accused of orchestrating the killings are still on the run.

ASIA

Japan Wants to Open N. Korea Talks

TOKYO--Japan wants to open negotiations with North Korea aimed at restoring normal ties between the estranged countries this month after a seven-year hiatus, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said.

"We would like to begin some form of negotiations by the end of this year that could lead to the start of formal talks between the two governments," Obuchi told parliament.

Obuchi's remarks followed a rare joint statement issued last week by the ruling parties of Japan and North Korea urging the resumption of talks on establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We need more than TVs in our lives. We need real change."

-- Ervin Rivas, an electrical repairman in Chile speaking on the effects of the free-market revolution in Latin America -- Page A1.