Russians Delay Vote on Arms Treaty

MOSCOW--Russian lawmakers delayed voting on the START II nuclear arms treaty yesterday, once again dashing prospects that it might be ratified soon.

Leaders in parliament's lower house, the State Duma, said last week that they planned to debate START II during a special session, which was also expected to include ratification of a union treaty with Belarus. But Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said the "issue hasn't been prepared yet."

The move raised the possibility that the Communists and their hard-line allies who dominate parliament might drop their resistance to the treaty. Russia and the United States signed the agreement in 1993, and the U.S. Senate ratified it in 1996.

Forced Laborers Amend German Claim

BERLIN--Nazi-era forced laborers have modified their demand for compensation from Germany to $5.7 billion, increasing the prospects of a deal. The German government and about 60 firms paying into a compensation fund have offered the former workers $4.1 billion, less than the $5.2 billion to $7.7 billion they were claiming.

The new proposal, made in a letter to top German negotiator Otto Lambsdorff, envisages most of the money coming from the German government and firms, and the rest from American companies whose subsidiaries were operating in Germany during the Nazi era.

Meanwhile, General Motors Corp.'s German unit, Adam Opel AG, said it was joining the compensation fund and the German unit of Ford Motor Co. said it was considering doing the same.

Thousands of workers, mostly from Eastern Europe, were enslaved by the Nazis and forced to perform backbreaking tasks to sustain labor camps, factories and chemical plants during World War II.


Flooding Damages Christian Shrine

JERUSALEM--Torrents of rainwater gushing down the slopes of the Mount of Olives flooded a major Christian shrine, a church built on the site where tradition says Jesus was arrested by the Romans.

The water, which rose to the chandeliers of the Church of All Nations, trapped five Greek Orthodox monks and nuns who had to be pulled out with ropes. Navy divers were also called in, but did not find others in the water.

Officials said key artifacts were destroyed, including the Icon of Mary. The church was built in 1924 in the garden of Gethsemane, the place where tradition says Jesus came with his disciples after the Last Supper and where he was betrayed and arrested.


Doctors Mum About Imperial Pregnancy

TOKYO--Japanese anxiously waiting for word on whether Princess Masako is pregnant with a possible heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne were left wondering when royal spokesmen said that doctors were still not sure.

"Following the tests today, at this stage we are not able to announce whether or not the crown princess is pregnant," the Imperial Household Agency said.

Japanese media went into a frenzy on Friday with reports that Masako, who has been married to Crown Prince Naruhito for six years, might be pregnant.

Sri Lankan Rebels Claim Victories

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--Sri Lanka's separatist rebels said they had captured three strategic northern army camps.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam's clandestine radio station, Voice of Tiger, said 38 rebels were killed Sunday while fighting for the bases, which are part of the Elephant Pass military complex.

The Defense Ministry, however, said troops had inflicted heavy casualties on the rebels when they repulsed guerrilla attempts to break through the defense line with artillery and mortar fire.

The strikes on Elephant Pass followed attacks last month in which the Tigers recaptured territory in the northern Wanni region that the military had seized over the past few years.

Chinese Official's Death Sentence on Hold

BEIJING--An appeals court put on hold a death sentence given to a local Communist Party official whose derelict management led to a deadly bridge collapse, state media reported. Forty people died in the Jan. 4 collapse of the newly built pedestrian bridge in Qijiang County.

The Higher People's Court in the southwestern city of Chongqing on Sunday granted Lin Shiyuan a two-year reprieve on the death sentence he was given in April, the People's Daily and other national newspapers reported. But the judges upheld his conviction for taking bribes and dereliction of duty, the papers said.


Sudan Quiet After Emergency Declaration

KHARTOUM, Sudan--A power struggle between Sudan's president and parliament speaker had reached such a critical stage that the only solution was to dissolve parliament and declare a state of emergency, President Omar Hassan Bashir asserted.

He assured Sudanese that "the security situation is completely under control." Parliament Speaker Hassan Turabi, who helped Bashir take power in a military takeover in 1989, accused the president of staging a coup.

Although some extra troops guarded key government posts, including Bashir's residence, the capital was quiet the day after Bashir declared a three-month state of emergency.

Congo Government Seizes Rebel Town

KIGALI, Rwanda--A Congolese rebel group has lost a northwestern town to President Laurent Kabila's troops and will now tighten ranks with two other rebel factions to try to prevent further defeats, a rebel leader said.

Jean-Pierre Bemba said his Ugandan-backed Congolese Liberation Movement lost Nkonya, 465 miles northeast of the capital, Kinshasa, during fighting Sunday. Bemba said his movement would hold talks with two other rebel groups on Thursday to try to improve military cooperation. The groups are backed by Rwanda and Uganda. There was no immediate comment from the government on the fighting.


"I can't tell you an agreement will be reached without a high price."

-- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking before parliament about upcoming peace talks with Syria --Page A1