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TALKS: British officials will meet leaders of the IRA's political allies next week in the first official face-to-face contact between the two sides since the IRA cease-fire. The time and location of the talks with Sinn Fein have not been set, said a spokesman at Prime Minister John Major's office.FUNERAL: Millions of people attended the funeral of Iran's last Shi'ite grand ayatollah in the Iranian city of Qom Thursday amid signs that members of the religious hierarchy were preparing to name spiritual leader Ali Khamenei as his successor. Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Araki died Tuesday at the age of 100 with no obvious candidate to succeed him as spiritual guide (marja). But Iran radio's English-language service referred to Khamenei several times Thursday as "Grand Ayatollah."

TEST: India's Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao's popularity and the strength of his Congress Party was being tested in elections Thursday in southern India, including his home state. The voting for two state legislatures was seen as an important bellwether for the party, which already has suffered setbacks in the north and must retain its support in the south. A loss in his own state of Andhra Pradesh could unleash rivalries in the governing party that Rao suppressed with difficulty last year.

Across the nation

WRECK: Two patrol cars rushing to a call collided and struck a small school bus, killing an officer, police in Milwaukee said. The officers were heading to assist another officer at a reported domestic dispute Wednesday. They collided at an intersection and then hit the bus, killing officer Michael A. Niehoff, 27, a passenger in one of the cars. The crash was so forceful that one police car was ripped open and the other had its front end pushed into the dashboard.

CONVICTED: The deli owner in Columbus, Ohio, who served the president a "Clinton Burger" was sentenced to three months in jail for defrauding the state out of nearly $27,000 in workers' compensation payments. Charlie Shaw also was fined $5,000 Wednesday and ordered to repay the money. Shaw, 41, was convicted of grand theft in October for illegally collecting the benefits between November 1991 and September 1993. His attorney said he will appeal.

In Washington

SHAKEUP: The Army is proposing a major reoganization of its fighting units that would pare 18,000 soldiers, two armored divisions and three combat brigades from its ranks. The proposal is being discussed with members of Congress, and a final decision could come in a matter of days, Pentagon officials said Wednesday.

Other news

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY says it has taken a record 2,247 enforcement actions against polluters this year, 137 more than in 1993. . . . GUATEMALAN AUTHORITIES have filed defamation charges against Jennifer Harbury, an American women who went on a hunger strike to pressure the government to find her missing guerrilla husband. . . . LOS ANGELES-BASED Occidental Petroleum Corp. said Tuesday it had agreed to pay $250 million in stock for Placid, one of the largest remaining vestiges of the Hunt oil empire. The deal should be complete by the end of the year.