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Survivor of Khmer Rouge camps curses two defecting leaders

The excesses of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime are showing signs of catching up with two defecting leaders of the rebel group.

A survivor of Khmer Rouge slave labor camps cursed at Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea from just a few feet away as they left their hotel Saturday, a day after Cambodia's prime minister said the pair might stand trial for genocide.

The VIP treatment Khieu Samphan and Nuon Chea have received since they arrived in Phnom Penh on Tuesday has angered local and international human rights groups, but the response of average Cambodians to the pair's warm welcome by the government has been muted.

That changed Saturday when Veng Khieng, 68, shaking with anger, shouted at the two. He said 60 of his relatives died when the Khmer Rouge controlled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979.

"Why put them in an air-conditioned hotel? They should sleep in a rice field like we had to when we were under their rule," Veng Khieng, a retired civil servant, told reporters.

The former guerrilla leaders ignored him and ducked into a van that left in a motorcade on the final leg of a government-organized national tour.

"I feel relaxed inside after cursing them, but I would have been more satisfied if I'd had the opportunity to punch them three or four times," he said.

Y99 glitches in Sweden

STOCKHOLM, Sweden _ For a while, some taxi passengers got unexpectedly cheap rides and some motorists had trouble buying gas due to computer glitches that accompanied the new year in Sweden.

Stockholm's largest taxi service recently changed the way it calculates fares. But when 1998 became 1999, some of its computers didn't adjust properly and passengers were charged normal rates, instead of the higher holiday and late-hour fares.

Customers of Statoil, Norway's state oil company which operates about 600 gas stations in Sweden, couldn't use their credit cards Friday because pumps were programmed to accept them only through December 1998.

"There was nothing wrong in the data technology, but rather it was we who programmed badly," Statoil spokesman Henrik Siden told the regional newspaper Oestgoeta Correspondenten.

Palestinians rally

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip _ Loyalists to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat marked the founding of his PLO faction, marching by the thousands and shooting rifles in the air to celebrate.

Rallies in Bethlehem, Tulkarem, and Gaza City were held to mark the 34th anniversary of Arafat's Fatah, which carried out a bloody struggle against Israel for decades before making peace with the Jewish state.

In Gaza, about 4,000 Fatah members rallied in an auditorium. A series of speakers denounced Israel for suspending the Wye River land-for-security accord.

"Our battle is a battle of peace, and our hand is extended in peace The olive branch is still held high, and we will not drop it," said Ahmed Hilas, the Fatah secretary in Gaza.

Israel says it has frozen compliance with the accord because of violations on the Palestinian side. The Palestinians insist they have been adhering to the agreement.

Israel has demanded that Palestinians stop threatening to unilaterally declare statehood in May, but the topic came up Saturday.

"Establishing the Palestinian Authority on part of our land proves that the sacrifices of our people from the start of the revolution until today have not gone to waste," said Zakaria Agah, a member of the PLO executive committee, speaking on Arafat's behalf.

Meanwhile, outside of a police station in east Jerusalem, a group of Palestinians threw stones at border police officers. Two were slightly injured, police spokeswoman Linda Menuhin said.

Elsewhere . . .

NORTH KOREA: North Korea has deployed medium-range ballistic missiles, a Japanese broadcaster reported. The reported deployment comes just months after North Korea fired a long-range missile over Japan, prompting denunciations from Tokyo.

VENEZUELA: President-elect Hugo Chavez has named a top investigative journalist as foreign minister. Newspaper and television commentator Jose Vicente Rangel, 68, uncovered a scandal of alleged misuse of state funds that led to former President Carlos Andres Perez's removal from office.

EGYPT: Security forces have arrested 71 suspected Muslim militants for plotting to kill senior government officials and police.

SRI LANKA: Two days of fighting between government troops and rebels has left 66 combatants dead, the military said.

LEBANON: The leader of the Hezbollah guerrillas, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said his faction would bombard northern Israel with rockets if the Jewish state carried out its threat to retaliate against border guerrilla attacks by striking deep inside Lebanon.

ITALY: One of Florence's premier tourist sites, a chapel housing some of Michelangelo's finest sculpture, was closed after a piece of marble crashed to the floor. The New Sacristy houses the tombs of several members of the Medici family and is adorned with the famed sculptures Night, Day, Dawn, and Dusk.

CYPRUS: The Socialist junior partners in the Cypriot governing coalition quit over a cancellation of plans to deploy Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles on the divided island. The move does not endanger the present administration, which is based on a presidential system, but does mean a cabinet reshuffle.

BRITAIN: Britons have a chance to make a string of offbeat New Year bets. Bookmaker William Hill offered odds of 25-1 that Queen Elizabeth would step down. Her son Charles marrying ex-nanny Tiggy Legge-Bourke was a 100-1 shot. A streaker in the House of Commons was rated a 16-1 probability, while a divorce for President Clinton was a 10-1 wager.