Chinese General Raises

Specter of Nuclear War

BEIJING -- A Chinese general said Beijing might respond with nuclear weapons if the United States attacked China in a conflict over Taiwan, news reports said Friday.

The State Department rejected the warning as "highly irresponsible."

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition into the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, a dean at China's National Defense University, told visiting Hong Kong-based reporters. His remarks were reported by the Asian Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.

Zhu stressed that he was expressing a personal view, not official policy, and was confident that China and the United States would not go to war, the reports said. While Zhu is a serving officer, he is not involved in policymaking.

Asia

* JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesian health authorities suspect that bird flu caused the recent deaths of a father and his two young daughters, Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said.

Initial tests were inconclusive, but a second test showed signs of the H5N1 virus, or avian influenza, she said at a news conference.

Blood samples from the father and one daughter are being sent to Hong Kong for further testing. If they prove positive for bird flu, the deaths will be the first from avian influenza in Indonesia, the world's fourth-most-populous country.

Thalita Nurul Azizah, 1, died on July 7 in a hospital on the outskirts of Jakarta, according to the Jakarta Post newspaper. Her father, Iwan Siswara Rifei, died Tuesday, and her sister Sabrina Nurul Aisyah, 8, died Thursday, the paper said.

Supari said that if it was bird flu, authorities would be concerned about possible human-to-human transmission of the disease because there was no immediate evidence of contact with poultry.

-- Ellen Nakashima

* BANGKOK -- Thailand's government, reeling from bold attacks by suspected separatists in the Muslim-dominated south, granted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra sweeping powers to tap phones, directly command security forces and order curfews.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani troops found the bodies of 24 suspected Taliban militants who were killed in overnight fighting with U.S. and Afghan soldiers near the border inside Afghanistan, an army spokesman said.

THE AMERICAS

* TORREON, Mexico -- Governors along the U.S.-Mexico border agreed to ask their governments to declare the border a strategic zone and seek federal funds for anti-terrorism measures.

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- A boss of Colombia's violent Norte del Valle drug cartel, Jose Aldemar Rendon, wanted by the United States for helping the group smuggle $10 billion in cocaine, was captured by police, authorities said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* JERUSALEM -- A secretive encounter with a Bedouin robber in a desert valley led to what an Israeli archaeologist hailed as one of the most important biblical finds from the region in half a century.

The discovery of two fragments from a nearly 2,000-year-old parchment scroll give rise to hope that the Judean Desert may yield more treasures, said Professor Chanan Eshel, an archaeologist from Tel Aviv's Bar Ilan University.

* UNITED NATIONS -- Investigators probing the U.N. oil-for-food program have found evidence of "gross mismanagement" and possible corruption by the U.N. agency that oversaw compensation for victims of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, Iraq's deputy U.N. ambassador said.

-- From News Services