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In frantic eleventh-hour bargaining in Belfast, pro-British Ulster Unionists and Catholic politicians appeared unlikely to meet Wednesday's midnight deadline set by Britain for the handover of home-rule powers. The sectarian rivals remain deadlocked over the surrender of Irish Republican Army weapons. Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA's political ally, Sinn Fein, was contending that he cannot force IRA disarmament.

A spokesman for the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal in The Hague said UN investigators have amassed proof that Serb forces tried to cover their tracks by burning paperwork, torching buildings, and disturbing mass graves. Such actions could bring charges of attempted destruction of evidence. The war-crimes investigators were looking for documentation that can establish command responsibility - crucial in the eventual prosecution of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic and four associates for atrocities in Kosovo.

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Turkish businesses in at least nine German cities - among them Berlin, Bremen, and Stuttgart - were firebombed following the Ankara government's decision to hang Kurdish guerrilla leader Abdullah Ocalan. Turkish-owned travel agencies, culture clubs, and food stands were among the targets. Germany is home to 2 million Turks, including 500,000 Kurds - about 11,000 of whom belong to Ocalan's Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and has been racked with sporadic outbursts of PKK violence over the past five years.

At least six heavily armed men held up a military car in Mexico City, killing two of President Ernesto Zedillo's bodyguards in broad daylight and making off with $50,000 in payroll withdrawls. Zedillo was at a conference in Brazil at the time. Tuesday's ambush ignited new public unrest in the capital, where the law is seen as increasingly difficult to enforce. Three weeks ago, a TV personality was murdered on a Mexico City street, causing an outpouring of public anger. A bystander also died in that incident.

Duty-free shopping within member countries of the European Union ended Wednesday at midnight. The move comes nine years after EU officials voted to lift tax exemptions on perfume, liquor, tobacco, and various luxury items.

Twenty-three kindergarten-aged children died at a seaside summer camp in South Korea when an early-morning fire destroyed their dormitory. The cause of the conflagration at the Sealand Youth Training Center 60 miles southwest of Seoul was not immediately known, but early speculation pointed to faulty electrical wiring.

Torrential rain caused landslides and severe flooding in western Japan, killing at least 27 people. Hardest hit was Hiroshima prefecture, 430 miles southwest of Tokyo. The deluge, which also has wreaked havoc on train and airline service, was forecast to hit northern and northeastern Japan next.

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