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Inspections in N. Korea begin

Experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency began inspecting North Korean nuclear facilities Thursday for the first time in more than a year.

Spokesman Hans-Friedrich Meyer said at agencyheadquarters here that a seven-member team had started work at Yongbyon, the site of a large nuclear research complex.

The visit follows months of stalling by North Korea while concern mounted among its neighbors and Western governments that it might be hiding a nuclear-weapons program.

The inspections are expected to take about two weeks. North Korea still refuses to allow outside visits to two sites that inspectors suspect could be involved with nuclear weapons.

Earlier Thursday, South Korea announced the conditional suspension of joint military exercises with the United States, and Washington said it would resume high-level talks with North Korea on March 21 in Geneva.

Haitians back political plan

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti _ Supporters of exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide have joined the Clinton administration in backing a plan that aims to resolve Haiti's political troubles but does not ensure Aristide's return.

The proposal, devised by U.S. officials and Haitian Parliament members last month, provides for the retirement of the army commander, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras, after the designation of a new prime minister and the passage of a military amnesty.

The new prime minister would be confirmed and a national unity government would be installed after Cedras steps down. Aristide is envisioned as playing a role in the national unity government, but it is not specified.

Aristide has dismissed the plan and implied that Washington has betrayed him.

But in a symbolic move intended to put more pressure on Aristide to give in, Haiti's lower house of Parliament voted 35-10 Wednesday night to approve the plan in principle. On Thursday, the plan got influential support from Victor Benoit, a leader of the Aristide faction in Parliament.

Elsewhere . . .

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa _ The ANC and its right-wing enemies endorsed international mediation to settle their differences Thursday, raising hopes for peaceful participation by all parties in the country's historic April election.

WASHINGTON _ Nearly all U.S. forces will be out of Somalia several days before the March 31 deadline for their departure, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Thursday.

TOULON, France _ Two men were charged Thursday in the killing of Yann Piat, a Parliament member who had crusaded against organized crime. Police said both suspects had links with Jean-Louis Fargette, a crime boss who was killed a year ago.