Libya Agrees to Pay Victims of 1986 Attack

* TRIPOLI -- Libya signed a deal to pay $35 million in compensation to more than 160 victims of a Berlin nightclub bombing in 1986, taking another major step toward ending its international isolation.

The agreement, which was struck last month and is likely to further improve relations between Libya and the European Union, was signed by the head of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi's charity foundation and German lawyers representing the victims.

A German court ruled in 2001 that the Libyan secret service was behind the bombing of the La Belle disco in West Berlin, a popular spot with U.S. soldiers.

Two U.S. soldiers and a Turkish woman were killed and more than 200 people were injured.

The compensation covers non-U.S. victims only. Payments to U.S. victims and their families are the subject of a separate legal action in the United States.

AFRICA

* UNITED NATIONS -- France circulated a U.N. Security Council resolution that would expand the number of peacekeepers in Congo from 10,800 troops to nearly 24,000.

The new troops would add at least $160 million to the cost of the operation, now about $746 million annually, according to some estimates.

the MIDDLE EAST

* JERUSALEM -- Palestinian officials this weekend begin signing up voters throughout the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem in what American diplomats say is one of the clearest signs yet of reform within Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian leaders have expressed hope that the $10 million, five-week registration drive -- the first in nearly nine years -- will boost morale among people disillusioned with their decade-old, quasi-official government, which has been crippled by corruption and unable to end the conflict with Israel.

Palestinian officials say they are concerned that their longtime foes will disrupt the registration process to keep them weak -- and the Israeli government has failed to dispel such suspicions. The Internal Security Ministry refused to say this week whether it would let the registration drive proceed unimpeded in areas under Israeli control.

* GAZA CITY -- Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in separate incidents, and Israeli helicopters fired three missiles at a Gaza warehouse the army said was used for making weapons.

The airstrike in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza set off a fire but caused no injuries. The building's owner denied weapons were being made on the premises, saying he was storing wood for construction in the building.

Earlier, Israeli soldiers shot at two Palestinians approaching an Israeli-controlled area near the Karni crossing between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the army said.

EUROPE

* BERLIN -- A German minister came under fire for labeling the Iraq war "a true crime," a remark that could reopen wounds between the United States and Germany.

Germany's conservative opposition urged Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to reprimand Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, minister for economic cooperation and development.

Wieczorek-Zeul said in a speech late Wednesday that the Iraq war had caused terrible human suffering. "That is a true crime," said the member of Schroeder's Social Democrats.

Leaders of the opposition Christian Democrats, who supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, called on Wieczorek-Zeul to retract her remarks and for Schroeder to silence her.

* WEIMAR, Germany -- A fire in one of Germany's most historic libraries has destroyed up to 30,000 rare books, authorities in the eastern city of Weimar said.

"The destruction of many thousands of books, particularly from the 16th to the 18th centuries, is an irreplaceable loss to the city's UNESCO World Heritage legacy," Weimar Mayor Volkhardt Germer said of the fire at the Anna Amalia Library.

A spokeswoman for the library, which was founded in 1691 and houses almost 1 million books in several buildings, said the cause of the Thursday evening blaze was unclear.

About 330 firefighters battled the fire in the upper stories of the library's main building, which contains the famous Rococo Hall and holds about 120,000 books. The fire was brought under control shortly before midnight, the council said.

* BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- Protestant extremists crashed a forklift truck into a Belfast pub packed with Catholics and tossed gasoline bombs into the building on a road on the front line of tensions between the two communities.

No one was hurt in the attack, police said, though the forklift crashed through a window just above a bench where a patron had been sitting seconds earlier, the bar's owner, Sean Conlon, said.

* LONDON -- A man wielding a machete and a knife attacked two security guards at the building housing the headquarters of the British domestic intelligence service, MI5, police said. The man charged the entrance of the building beside the River Thames and attacked two security guards before armed police arrived and subdued him with a stun gun, according to the Metropolitan Police.

ASIA

* KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- At least one man was killed and four wounded when a bomb exploded in the southern city of Kandahar, in the latest attack by Taliban fighters intent on derailing a landmark election next month.

U.S. forces pursuing Taliban and al Qaeda forces have a large base at Kandahar's airport, but the explosion happened in a crowded central part of the city, once a Taliban stronghold.

-- From News Services