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OFF COURSE: A group of Cubans who wanted asylum in the United States hijacked a fishing boat but wound up in Jamaica instead. Three Cubans who said they were fishermen told police that 20 people hijacked their vessel Thursday night. The hijackers were armed with a revolver and two knives, the fishermen said. The hijackers ordered the fishermen to sail to Florida but they went off course and landed in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Friday. Police said the 16 men, five women and two young girls have been staying in a hotel where they have been questioned by immigration and police authorities.NO OVERTURES: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, flatly ruling out any Israeli contacts with Baghdad, Sunday denied reports that Iraq's President Saddam Hussein had made peace overtures to him. "No message has reached me from Saddam Hussein. I didn't ask for mediation with him, and I'm not interested in it," he said, reacting to an Israel Television report that Iraq - which fired dozens of Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 gulf war - had expressed readiness to discuss peace with the Jewish state.

Across the nation

DISPUTED: NAACP executive director Benjamin Chavis' claim that he inherited a $2 million deficit in the organization's finances is "utterly false," his predecessor, Benjamin Hooks, said in New York. Hooks says in the Aug. 22 issue of Newsweek that he left the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People with a $600,000 surplus. "It's not a matter of Chavis versus Hooks," he said. "It's Chavis vs. the books." The organization is reporting a $2.7 million deficit. Chavis has been under pressure to resign for committing up to $332,400 in NAACP money to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit without the consent of the 64-member board of directors.

RESCUED: An eight-legged robot stuck in an Alaskan volcano for more than a week has been airlifted out of the muddy crater, officials said Sunday. Scientists took advantage of good weather Saturday to rescue the spiderlike robot, Dante II. The robot had slipped and fallen on its side in mud Aug. 5 after a weeklong exploration of Mount Spurr, 90 miles west of Anchorage, said Marc Johnston, a pilot for Kenai Air Alaska. A Kenai Air helicopter lifted the 1,700-pound robot from its resting spot 400 feet below the crater's rim.