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N. Korea vows to launch missile

North Korea will ignore appeals and warnings from the United States, Japan and South Korea and test another missile, North Korea's state-run news agency reported Sunday.

It was one of the strongest statements yet from the communist country, which Western military analysts say is poised to test an advanced version of a long-range missile that it fired over Japan last year. North Korea said it had launched a satellite, though U.S. space officials found no evidence to support the claim.

The new missile, reportedly a Taepodong II, is capable of reaching Hawaii or Alaska.

JAPAN WARNS: Japan is turning up the heat on North Korea, threatening to suspend all cash remittances by Koreans to that country if it proceeds with plans to test-fire a new long-range ballistic missile.

In his strongest warning yet, Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura of Japan said Sunday that the government was considering barring Koreans living in Japan from sending cash and goods to North Korea.

The remittances, estimated at $600-million to $1-billion a year, are a major source of capital for North Korea. Their loss would have dire consequences for a country whose economy is in shambles and whose people are facing dire food shortages and even famine.

Hijacked Venezuelan

plane returns home

CARACAS, Venezuela _ A rebel group promised to free 14 passengers discovered in Colombia after their plane was hijacked in Venezuela more than a week ago, Venezuela's interior minister said.

The plane's two-man crew flew the aircraft into the Venezuelan border town of Guasdualito on Sunday afternoon, Ignacio Arcaya told reporters. It had been hijacked July 30 and taken into Colombia's Arauca state.

Colombia's largest rebel group promised to free the passengers, although it insisted it had not hijacked the flight. A woman claiming to represent the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said one of its guerrilla units discovered the downed plane near the border with Venezuela a day after it disappeared.

In Israel . . .

ARAFAT ACCEPTS SCHEDULE: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Sunday accepted Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's timetable for relinquishing West Bank territory, putting to rest a small crisis that had erupted over efforts to renew the long-stalemated Mideast peace process.

Arafat, president of the self-governing Palestinian Authority, agreed to Barak's proposal to delay land transfers until October. The delay had outraged many Palestinian officials, who denounced the proposal in recent days and questioned the new Israeli premier's commitment to the pursuit of peace.

ALBRIGHT VISIT DELAYED: Heeding a request by Israel, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has agreed to postpone a Mideast trip scheduled to begin at the end of this week, Palestinian and Israeli officials said Sunday.

LEBANON BOMBED: Israeli warplanes bombed suspected guerrilla hideouts in southern Lebanon late Sunday after ground assaults on Israeli troops and their militia allies, officials said.

Jets fired at least three missiles in two airstrikes on hills and valleys just north of the Israeli-occupied zone in southern Lebanon, Lebanese security officials reported. There was no immediate word on casualties.

Elsewhere . . .

GUYANA CHIEF QUITS: Guyana's U.S.-born president announced Sunday that she was resigning because of ill health. Janet Jagan said Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo would succeed her. Jagan, 78, was treated in the United States last month for a heart condition.

HOSTAGES FREED: Rebel-allied soldiers freed at least 19 captives Sunday in Sierra Leone, U.N. and other officials said. The move brightened hopes for the release of nearly 10 other hostages.

BOATERS RESCUED: Six Russian boaters whose skiffs became separated from their companions while crossing the Bering Sea were found in good condition after being lost for four days, the coast guard said Sunday.

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