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Sierra Leone hostages freed

A nearly weeklong hostage crisis ended Tuesday when former junta soldiers freed their remaining prisoners after receiving assurances they would not be prosecuted, a government official said.

The soldiers released 15 West African intervention force soldiers and a U.N. military observer, along with 200 civilians taken prisoner during this West African nation's eight-year civil war, Information Minister Julius Spencer said. "All the hostages have been released."

The kidnappers had demanded food and medical supplies, along with the release of Lt. Col. Johnny Paul Koroma, the former junta leader who they had claimed was detained by Sierra Leone's Revolutionary United Front rebels. Koroma has denied that he is a prisoner.

Asked if supplies would be provided to the soldiers, Spencer said: "We are asking aid agencies to provide food and medicine to the area. If (the soldiers) are around, and they hand in their weapons, maybe food and medicines will get to them eventually."

Netherlands issues

euthanasia guidelines

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands _ The Dutch government published plans Tuesday to legalize mercy killing under strict guidelines, which would allow children as young as 12 to demand and receive euthanasia.

The plans are expected to gain parliamentary approval next year, which would make the Netherlands the first country in the world to legalize mercy killing.

Under the new law, which formalizes practices already widely accepted and carried out in the Netherlands, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide would be legal only if carried out under strict guidelines.

Doctors judged not to have adhered to the guidelines could face 12 years in jail.

The proposed guidelines require: the patient make a voluntary and informed request; the patient be suffering irremediable and unbearable pain; all other medical options be exhausted; a second opinion be sought; and the euthanasia be "carefully carried out."

Kosovo police force

rejects 86 volunteers

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia _ More than 80 police officers sent from Nepal and Bangladesh to work in Kosovo don't have the basic equipment or training for the province's hostile environment, the commander of the U.N.'s international police force said Tuesday.

The 50 officers from Nepal and 36 from Bangladesh are "on hold" for now, said Col. Michael Jorsback of Sweden.

Jorsback is chief of staff of the U.N. International Police Force in Kosovo, which was created to help fight ethnic violence and rampant crime. It began setting up offices Monday.

According to Jorsback, the Nepalese arrived without handguns, while 36 of the 49 sent from Bangladesh were mostly administrative personnel who didn't have the proper training in police work. Another 13 officers from Bangladesh were qualified to be included in the force.

"They were all highly prepared officers, but we need street cops, and they were not," he said.

The 86 officers in question represent 20 percent of the initial force, and questions about their capabilities added to the security concerns of U.N. and NATO officials trying to introduce a sense of normality into the province.

Chinese jet fighters

fly over Taiwan Strait

BEIJING _ President Lee Teng Hui of Taiwan Tuesday publicly played down the significance of recent sorties by Chinese jet fighters over the Taiwan Strait, in an apparent effort to combat what Taiwan views as a campaign of psychological warfare by the Chinese government.

Since July 9, Chinese fighters have flown more than 100 sorties along the middle of the 100-mile-wide waterway. These uncustomary flights have been part of a show of force following Lee's call for "special state-to-state" relations with the mainland, repudiating Beijing's view of Taiwan as a wayward Chinese province.

Lee told an audience of government officials that Chinese fighter jets crossed the dividing line on the Taiwan Strait on two recent occasions, but he dismissed the brief incursions into Taiwan's airspace as mistakes by Chinese pilots. The Defense Ministry also announced that it has detected no sign that China is preparing an invasion and said China's military does not appear to be planning to conduct large-scale war games in the strait like those in 1995-96.

Tuesday, China's state-run media intensified its attack on Lee, calling him the "chief criminal" responsible for blocking Taiwan's reunification with China.

Americans warned

not to travel to Pakistan

WASHINGTON _ The State Department said Tuesday that it has obtained information indicating that extremists based in Afghanistan, presumably allied with terrorist Osama bin Laden, are preparing to attack U.S. citizens and property in Pakistan.

The department urged Americans to avoid travel to Pakistan, especially areas in the country's North-West Frontier, where the government's influence is limited.

"The United States continues to receive a growing body of information that suggests strongly that extremists based in Afghanistan are preparing to attack U.S. interests in Pakistan in the near future," the department said.

In a related matter, the White House froze the assets in the United States of Ariana Afghan Airlines. White House spokesman David Leavy said the airline, which does not serve U.S. airports, is controlled by the Taleban, the militia that controls most of Afghanistan and is an ally of bin Laden. He said the airline is thought to have about $500,000 in assets in the United States.

"As part of our strategy to isolate bin Laden and his supporters, we will continue to apply sanctions against him and those who support and assist him in carrying out his acts of violence," Leavy said.

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