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Catholic political leaders in Northern Ireland were accusing their Protestant counterparts of being "fixated on weapons that are silent" as the latter delayed until tonight their final decision on participating in the province's self-rule government. The Protestants planned to offer amendments to a bill being rushed through Parliament in London to set up the new government this weekend, saying it had "continuing problems." Last year's peace deal calls for the Irish Republican Army to disarm. Although that hasn't happened, one Catholic leader said the IRA's weapons had been downed - if not formally surrendered.

Street protests against Iran's hard-line clerics appeared to intensify in a sixth day of clashes with police in Tehran, the capital. An estimated 10,000 people defied a new ban on "unofficial" public gatherings there, and student-led demonstrations spread to at least 10 other cities, despite appeals by reformist President Mohamad Khatami and moderate newspapers to stop before they led to a brutal police crackdown.

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Relations headed for a new low between China and Taiwan on the third day after the latter's president said the island should be treated as a state in future bilateral contacts. Lee Teng Hui's remark angered the Beijing government, which has used increasingly sharp rhetoric to denounce him. Senior envoy Wang Daohan, who is scheduled to visit Taiwan in October as part of ongoing efforts at eventual reconciliation, said Lee's comment had "wiped out the foundation" for further contact. And a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman warned that Taiwan was heading for "monumental disaster" in abandoning the longstanding "one China" policy.

The gathering of signatures on petitions for the removal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic proceeded in Belgrade despite police orders to stop as pro-democracy forces appeared to be gaining strength. Organizers said 150,000 people had signed the document around the city, long a center of opposition to the hard-line president. An anti-Milosevic rally was to be held later in Jogodina, 75 miles to the south. And at Valjevo in western Serbia, police had to beat back an attempt by an estimated 1,000 protesters (above) to storm the city hall.

A $935 million emergency program to provide public-works jobs was announced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Analysts said it was in response to heavy criticism from the business sector that Chavez has concentrated too much attention on political reform since taking office five months ago, while South America's fourth-largest economy has wilted.

Soldiers will become a "permanent fixture" in troubled inner-city neighborhoods, Jamaican Prime Minister P. J. Patterson declared in his latest move to crack down on escalating gang violence. Troops and police also were empowered to conduct round-the-clock searches of people and vehicles throughout Kingston, the capital, for fire-arms. Almost 500 Jamaicans have died in violence so far this year - more than 70 of them since mid-June. Last week, a dusk-to-dawn curfew was imposed in Kingston's hardest-hit neighborhoods.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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