THE AMERICAS

Canada Seeks Graphic Smoking Warnings

OTTAWA--Cigarette packages would be required to carry graphic illustrations of diseased hearts, cancerous lungs or other health problems attributed to smoking under new regulations proposed yesterday by Health Minister Alan Rock.

Rock said he hoped the regulations, which would be among the strongest in the world, could be in place by the end of the year. He said tobacco use is the top health issue in Canada, killing 45,000 people every year.

The mandatory warnings would cover half of the front and back of cigarette packages. They could include color photographs of a diseased mouth, lung tumors or a damaged heart, or graphs showing death rates.

Venezuela Acknowledges Rights Abuses

CARACAS, Venezuela--The Venezuelan government admitted that human rights violations, including summary executions of looters by troops, might have occurred in the aftermath of last month's devastating mudslides.

Reversing an official stance that challenged the credibility of local human rights groups and media reports, Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel admitted to reporters "the existence of such human rights abuses would not be unusual."

Human rights organizations Provea and Cofavic said they had received at least 20 reports of summary executions by troops in the central Caribbean state of Vargas, ravaged in mid-December by flash floods and mudslides in which tens of thousands of people may have died, according to the government.

EUROPE

Britain to Reform N. Ireland Police Force

BELFAST--Britain announced plans to reform Northern Ireland's police force, stripping it of its "royal" designation and pledging to increase the number of Roman Catholic officers.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson said he would soon unveil legislation designed to transform the predominantly Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) into a new Police Service of Northern Ireland that would enjoy greater support from Catholics.

New Questions Raised in German Scandal

BERLIN--An unapologetic Helmut Kohl played down a campaign financing scandal even as Christian Democratic leaders acknowledged that auditors have discovered millions of dollars more on party books that can't be traced.

Kohl defended his refusal to identify the sources of anonymous campaign donations. His silence has fueled speculation the money was accepted in exchange for political favors. "I never claimed to be a saint," Kohl said in a speech to Hamburg business leaders. "Of course I made mistakes, and I've acknowledged this. [But] I was never corruptible in all of these years, and everyone who knows me knows this."

THE MIDDLE EAST

Palestinian Dies in Israeli Custody

JERUSALEM--For the first time since Israel's Supreme Court banned the use of force against Palestinian detainees, a Palestinian has died in Israeli custody after being tortured, a human rights group said.

The LAW Society, a Palestinian human rights group, said in a statement that Lafi Rajabi, 20, died Friday while in Israeli detention near the Jewish settlement of Ariel. His body, returned to his family on Monday, bore wounds, cuts and bruises, the group said. No autopsy report was given to the family.

Amir Abramovitch, media adviser to Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, said Beilin was unaware of the case but had asked his ministry's human rights department to investigate.

Iran Wants Western Forces to Leave Gulf

TEHRAN--President Mohammed Khatemi called for an end to the presence of Western forces in the Persian Gulf, saying gulf countries could police the oil-rich region themselves.

"The presence of foreign forces is at odds with our interests and those of other nations in the region. . . . It is in fact an insult, a source of tension," Khatemi said at a meeting with army officials in the province of Homozgan. He did not name any country. U.S. and allied forces are stationed in the region to defend oil-producing gulf Arab states.

AFRICA

More Rebels Accept Amnesty in Algeria

ALGIERS--About 80 percent of the Muslim rebels fighting an insurgency in Algeria surrendered under a government peace offer, Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said. It was the first official assessment of the success of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's plan for "civil concord," under which Islamic insurgents could surrender by Jan. 13 in exchange for partial amnesty.

The exact number of insurgents who accepted the peace offer was not immediately clear. The daily El Khabar said 4,200 may have surrendered, but Zerhouni provided no figures. Authorities have never publicly estimated the number of insurgents.

ASIA

China to Strengthen Ties with S. Korea

SEOUL--Beijing will strengthen ties with its former adversary South Korea to help ease tension on the divided Korean Peninsula, China's defense minister said.

Chi Haotian, the first Chinese defense chief to visit South Korea, made the comments during a meeting with President Kim Dae Jung on the first of five days he will spend in the country.

South Korea considers Chi's visit a diplomatic coup over North Korea. China fought for North Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War and has remained the communist nation's closest ally.

Pakistan Charges Former Leader

KARACHI, Pakistan--Three months after he was ousted in a coup, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and six others were formally charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, terrorism, abetment and hijacking. All seven pleaded not guilty.

The charges against the seven stem from Oct. 12, when a plane carrying military chief Gen. Pervez Musharraf and about 200 passengers was briefly denied the right to land at Karachi. Sharif had sacked Musharraf earlier that day, but after the plane landed the military chief overthrew the government.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"One must give them their due.... Their fighting is, well, distinguished."

-- Russian Maj. Gen. Vadim Timchenko, on the rebels defending Grozny, the capital of Chechnya --Page A15