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OTTAWA — The government said it might appeal a U.S. court decision dismissing its $1-billion lawsuit against RJ Reynolds Tobacco Holdings and its subsidiaries.


SUVA — Fiji's military stepped up the pressure on rebels holding 27 hostages in parliament, declaring an off-limits military zone around the area and offering amnesty to anyone who leaves within two days.

South Korea

SEOUL — South Korean Red Cross officials said they had short-listed 400 candidates, out of 76,793 applicants, for next month's reunion of North and South Korean families separated by the Cold War's last frontier.


JAKARTA — Separatist leaders from the vast province of Irian Jaya said President Abdurrahman Wahid had promised to examine their demands for independence.


OKINAWA CITY — Police in Okinawa urged the U.S. military to reimpose a late-night curfew on soldiers after three Marines were arrested, including one who allegedly entered the home of a 14-year-old girl and fondled her as she slept.

TOKYO — Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori's new cabinet began work Wednesday to a chorus of criticism that it lacks the depth and experience to tackle the task of ensuring a tentative economic recovery that does not falter.


BERLIN — Just one German in five thinks Helmut Kohl, their longest serving modern chancellor, should keep his seat in parliament following a financial scandal that has hobbled his conservative party, a new poll shows.


TASHKENT — The government denied a report that poet Mamadali Makhmudov, jailed for supporting a banned opposition party, had been tortured in prison and was dangerously ill.

Sri Lanka

COLOMBO — Thirteen people were injured when an explosion went off in a courtroom, police said. Among those hurt was a well-known hit man facing charges.


MANAMA — A Bahraini court has sentenced Briton Richard Mechan to 15 years in prison for manslaughter after being convicted of stabbing to death an American man earlier this year, a newspaper reported.


MOSCOW — A Proton-K booster launched a Russian Cosmos military satellite into orbit Wednesday from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakstan. The booster is the same one to be used to launch the Russian-built Zvezda living module for the International Space Station next week.


KUALA LUMPUR — Health authorities put eight hog farms in eastern Malaysia under quarantine after tests showed some pigs could be infected with a virus that killed more than 100 people last year, news reports said.


BEIJING — Gas exploded in a coal mine in southwestern China, killing 12 miners and injuring 13 others, officials said.


SAO PAULO — The government has set aside more than $1 billion for land reforms, including resettlement for 260,000 families of landless farmers in an apparent effort to defuse growing rural unrest.


HANOI — The communist party chief has admitted efforts to clean up corruption in the ruling party had fallen short and needed to be pursued with greater determination to ease popular discontent.


LIMA — President Alberto Fujimori pledged to keep his shadowy security chief by his side, denying reports that the Organization of American States urged him to fire Vladimiro Montesinos.