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World in brief

Officials predict more N. Korean incidents

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 5, 2003

WASHINGTON -- U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that they anticipate a continuing series of provocative acts by North Korea along the lines of last weekend's interception of an Air Force surveillance plane by North Korean jets, saying such moves would be aimed at pressuring the Bush administration at a time when it is preparing for a possible war with Iraq.

As in the air encounter over the Sea of Japan, the officials said they expect that North Korea will seek to stop short of crossing any red lines that could lead to war. But unnamed intelligence officials warned the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times and other media outlets that such lines are hard to define, raising the prospect that some miscalculation or accident could result in hostilities.

The Associated Press, citing unnamed Pentagon officials, reported that the military is considering having fighter jets escort its reconnaissance planes near North Korea.

BOMBERS GOING TO GUAM: The Pentagon announced Tuesday that 24 U.S. bombers had been ordered to Guam. The bombers -- a dozen B-1s and a dozen B-52s -- were put on alert several weeks ago.

The decision to move them was made by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld before the weekend incident with North Korea, a Pentagon spokesman said. White House officials played down the movement of the aircraft to the Western Pacific island as a way to ensure against North Korean "opportunism" if military action begins in Iraq.

MORE FOOD SOUGHT: The U.N. World Food Program appealed Tuesday for more food donations for North Korea, warning that it will run out of supplies by June despite recent big contributions by the United States and European Commission.

"Deliveries have fallen well short of needs," the program said in a statement. The agency said it hopes to feed some 6.4-million North Koreans this year, but has received only about 180,000 of the 512,000 tons of food that it needs.

Election delayed in Northern Ireland

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- A key election in Northern Ireland will be delayed for a month in hope that the IRA renounces violence and scraps the bulk of its weapons, the prime ministers of Britain and Ireland announced early today.

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern said their two days and nights of talks could pave the way to resumed power-sharing between Protestants and Catholics.

Ahern and Blair postponed until May 29 the scheduled May 1 election for Northern Ireland's moribund legislature, which has authority to determine the shape and leadership of the next administration.

Greek terror defendant accepts responsibility

ATHENS, Greece -- The man accused of being the chief hit man of Greece's deadliest terrorist group accepted "political responsibility" Tuesday for a series of killings and bombings that spanned nearly three decades.

Dimitris Koufodinas was among six of 19 suspected members of the November 17 cell to admit belonging to the group blamed for more than 100 bombings, a string of armed robberies and 23 murders since 1975.

"I assume political responsibility for every action," Koufodinas, charged with taking part in 16 killings, told the court that began hearing the case Monday.

Elsewhere . . .

SOVIET WEAPONS DISMANTLING: Bush administration officials acknowledged frustrations Tuesday in a program to dismantle weapons held by the former Soviet Union, including the failure of two projects costing a total of $200-million. But the benefits of the program in keeping weapons out of terrorists' hands far outweigh the problems, they told the House Armed Services Committee.

S. KOREAN SUBWAY FIRE: South Korean police arrested a train driver on negligent manslaughter charges Tuesday in connection with the subway fire in Daegu that killed 198 people. Choi Jung Hwan, 34, is accused of failing to report the fire to the control center and neglecting his duty to evacuate passengers, police said.

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