NEW DELHI - Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday fired a Cabinet minister accused of corruption in hopes of defusing a dispute with a key political ally.

North Korea

TOKYO - North Korea, on the heels of failed talks between the two Koreas, blasted the administration of South Korean President Kim Dae-jung on Monday, saying it was as bad as what it called its dictatorial predecessors.


Singapore has expressed its regret over a U.S. State Department report on the city state's human rights record and said allegations in the document were unfounded, Foreign Minister Shanmugam Jayakumar said Monday.


JAKARTA - Indonesian students held anti-government protests in two cities on Monday despite weekend talks with Cabinet ministers aimed at ending demonstrations for political and economic reform.


HELSINKI - Finland's dominant Lutheran Church is facing what looks like an epidemic of heresy in its ranks after one of its priests denied the existence of hell and another claimed Jesus was married.


PALMA DE MAJORCA - Senior officials from 11 Mediterranean countries holding talks on the Spanish island of Majorca on Monday condemned Israel's settlement policy and called for creation of a Palestinian state.


KINSHASA - A second wave of U.N. investigators has left the Democratic Republic of the Congo, effectively ending the mission sent to seek evidence of massacres of Rwandan Hutus refugees in the former Zaire.


LONDON - Emma Bonino, a senior European Union official, on Monday suggested it might be time to look again at the strict international sanctions which have been in place against Iraq for more than seven years.


BAGHDAD - Iraq and Iran held a meeting on Monday to discuss remaining prisoners from their 1980-88 war.


MARJAYOUN - An Israeli-backed Lebanese militiaman was wounded by a land mine in south Lebanon on Monday, a pro-Israeli militia source said.


BEIJING - The head of China's Roman Catholic Church on Monday urged Pope John Paul II to cut ties with Taiwan and recognize communist China to enable relations between the Vatican and state-sanctioned Chinese believers.


MAIDUGURI - Nigerian military ruler General Sani Abacha won a crucial party vote Monday, which means he will face no opponent in presidential elections planned for Aug 1.


MOSCOW - Russia, the world's biggest arms exporter after the United States, plans to sell $3.5 billion worth of arms in 1998, $1 billion more than last year, Interfax news agency said Monday.


MA'ON - Israel ordered Jewish settlers on Monday to evacuate caravans they illegally erected on a West Bank hilltop where a Jewish settler was shot dead by Palestinians on Sunday.


VIENNA - Hospitalized Czech President Vaclav Havel was improving Monday after suffering breathing problems over the weekend, but he remained on a respirator, doctors said.