China Rejects Overture

From Leader of Taiwan

BEIJING -- China spurned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's peace overtures on Wednesday and said that his calls for easing tensions were false.

Chen called for peace talks with China in his National Day speech on Sunday, but asserted that the island was a sovereign nation and not a province of China.

"When [Chen] said he wants to ease tensions, it is false. When he says he wants independence, it is true," Zhang Mingqing, a spokesman for the policymaking Taiwan Affairs Office, said at a news conference.

"He has no sincerity," Zhang said, adding that formal independence for the self-ruled island would "only bring great disaster." But he said China was willing to "strengthen exchanges and expand cooperation with Taiwan compatriots."

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan and has threatened to attack the democratic island of 23 million if it formally declares statehood. The two sides split at the end of the Chinese civil war in 1949.

Asia

* TOKYO -- Nine bodies were found Tuesday with charcoal stoves at their feet in two parked cars with the windows sealed from inside in what is believed to be Japan's largest group suicide pact.

In one case, police found seven dead in a deserted lot outside Tokyo -- four men and three women, including teenagers and a 33-year-old mother, a police spokesman said. In the second case, two women were found in a rented car at an isolated temple in Yokosuka, about 30 miles southwest of the capital.

The discoveries were the latest in a rash of suicide pacts that have left dozens of Japanese dead in recent years.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan said it had successfully test-fired a medium-range, nuclear-capable missile that could hit many cities in neighboring India, but defense officials said it was not intended as a message to the rival country.

India was informed beforehand about the test of the Ghauri V missile, which has a range of 930 miles.

* SEOUL -- A small South Korean navy vessel sank overnight in bad weather, the Defense Ministry said on Wednesday. One sailor was rescued from the training ship, which sank off the south coast of South Korea. The four other crew members were missing.

The Middle East

* RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Three suspected Saudi guerrillas armed with guns and hand grenades -- including one on the country's most-wanted list -- were killed in a clash with Saudi security forces on Tuesday, officials said.

Seven police officers were wounded in the confrontation with the guerrillas, who were hiding on the second floor of a house in eastern Riyadh, according to an Interior Ministry statement. Officials identified one of them as Abdul-Majeed Mohammed Abdullah Moneea, No. 18 on Saudi Arabia's list of 26 most-wanted terror suspects.

The Americas

* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Violence in Haiti's capital has claimed at least 46 lives, with hospital records showing that 17 victims were shot and killed this week. Many shops and markets remained closed as hulks of torched cars and bonfires of tires smoldered in the streets.

Port-au-Prince has been beset by gun battles and beheadings since a Sept. 30 demonstration marking the 1991 coup that first overthrew President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

* SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Brazilian robbers broke into a cash transporting firm's building via a tunnel, briefly took more than 70 people hostage and then got away with an equivalent of at least $2 million.

Police said at least eight men, all heavily armed, took part in the spectacular holdup in Sao Paulo on Monday night. They had dug a tunnel at least 60 yards long from outside the building to a toilet on the ground floor, next to the firm's treasury. The robbery took 20 minutes; nobody was hurt.

* OTTAWA -- The Canadian navy docked its fleet of four submarines until officials determine what caused a fire aboard one sub last week that killed a crewman and injured two, officials said.

The action came one week after a disabled HMCS Chicoutimi was forced to surface off the coast of Ireland after two fires broke out. The sub, which was making its first voyage under the Canadian flag after being leased from Britain, had to be rescued.

-- From News Services