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U.N. cracks down on lawlessness

Plagued by near-daily attacks on international peacekeepers, U.N. officials announced new regulations Friday allowing them to detain or remove anyone deemed disruptive of the peace in Kosovo.

International officials said Friday that both Russian and German soldiers had come under fire in the past 24 hours.

A sniper bullet hit a Russian soldier in the shoulder Thursday while he was on guard duty near Gnjilane in southeastern Kosovo, NATO officials said. German peacekeepers also came under machine-gun fire that day, but there were no casualties, the German Defense Ministry said Friday.

The U.N. mission to Kosovo announced the new regulations in an attempt to curb such attacks, as well as rampant crime and ethnic violence between Kosovo's Albanians and the dwindling Serb population. The new regulations authorize peacekeepers and U.N. police to detain or remove anyone at any time, if such a move is deemed in the interest of maintaining order.

The regulations also would allow peacekeepers to expel people from the province in southern Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic, U.N. legal officials said.

More than 35,000 NATO troops are providing security in Kosovo, and a 3,100-member U.N. police force is being set up.

Soldiers convicted

COBAN, Guatemala _ A court convicted 25 soldiers on homicide charges in the first trial of troops accused of massacring civilians during Guatemala's civil war.

Prosecutors sought a murder conviction for the 1995 slaying of 11 war refugees in the village of Xaman, 40 miles north of Coban. That charge could carry the death penalty. But the three-judge panel delivered the less severe homicide verdict.

Twelve of the soldiers were sentenced to five years on charges of culpable homicide. The rest were sentenced to the four years they have already served for being accomplices.

Split in Barak coalition?

JERUSALEM _ Prime Minister Ehud Barak's coalition government faced a possible split Friday when two religious parties threatened to quit.

The parties made their threat after Barak authorized the transportation of a 250-ton superheater on the Sabbath day. Under Orthodox Jewish custom, driving is forbidden on the Sabbath, which lasts from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday.

The long-standing arrangement between the religious parties and government is that work is not done on the Sabbath if it can be postponed. But such wide loads have always been transported overnight on the Sabbath because huge traffic jams would be caused if they were moved on a weekday.

The ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which is the second-largest in the coalition, threatened to pull out of the government when it was announced that the operation was going ahead. United Torah Judaism, another ultra-Orthodox coalition party, also threatened to quit.

The two ultra-Orthodox parties cannot bring down the Barak government, but he prefers to have them on board because without them his majority will be narrower.

Elsewhere . . .

HOSTAGES FREED: At least seven aid workers abducted by Liberian insurgents were freed, while around 90 U.N. and other foreign workers fled into Guinea to avoid fighting, officials said.

SUSPECT ARRESTED: Manuel Escalante, suspected of being one of the gunmen who killed 19 people last September on a farm in Mexico, has been arrested in Los Angeles, officials say.

IRAN, TURKEY TEAM UP: Iran has agreed to join Turkey in launching simultaneous military operations against Kurdish rebels.