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COALITION BY-ELECTION LOSS IN JAPAN Japan's Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama failed a test of strength yesterday as an alliance of opposition parties triumphed over his ruling coalition in a closely watched by-election for a parliamentary seat. Coalition candidate Jiro Mizuno insisted that the result is ``my personal responsibility.'' For the opposition, former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata said voters had judged the alliance between Mr. Murayama's left-leaning Socialists and the conservative Liberal Democrats as ``an act of betrayal'' and wanted a progressive new party. The Liberal Democrats had governed Japan alone from 1955 until last year. The vote was for an upper house seat for central Aichi prefecture.

Dole to help North

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US Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole, who once appeared hesitant to endorse Republican Senate candidate Oliver North, has agreed to join him on the campaign trail in Virginia.

Mr. Dole said he will appear with North in Alexandria, Norfolk, Salem, and Richmond as part of a tour on behalf of Southern GOP candidates. North is running for the seat held by Democratic Sen. Charles Robb. Former Gov. L. Douglas Wilder and former state Attorney General J. Marshall Coleman are running as independents.

Shuttle shoots laser

Bright green laser pulses streamed from space shuttle Discovery on Saturday and bounced off thick, high clouds over Caribbean tropical storm Debby in the first atmospheric study of its kind.

Ground controllers directed the lasers at the storm as the shuttle soared overhead. The experiment took place several hours after the shuttle successfully blasted off for a nine-day flight.

Greece, Albania at odds

Albania accused Greece of exacerbating tensions between the Balkan rivals Saturday by closing a Greek consulate and virtually sealing the border. The Albanian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that Greece had closed its consulate in Gjirokastra, a town in southern Albania where an ethnic Greek minority is concentrated. Relations between the two countries deteriorated sharply when a Tirana court on Wednesday convicted five ethnic Greeks of spying for Greece and sentenced them to prison.

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Pope in Zagreb

Pope John Paul II in Zagreb, Croatia, urged his Catholic Croatian hosts to seek peace with their Serb neighbors yesterday. However, on Saturday he called Sarajevo, surrounded by Bosnian Serb forces, ``a martyred town'' and specifically mentioned Croat towns taken by Serbs. Croats chafe at the loss of one-third of their land in the civil war against the Serbs three years ago, and many vow to get it back.

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