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N. Korea missile said poised for launch

JAPAN

N. Korea missile said poised for launch
TOKYO -- The United States and Japan have detected signs that North Korea is preparing to launch a ballistic missile capable of reaching almost anywhere in Japan, Japanese and US government sources said yesterday. The preparations were detected after the reclusive communist state declined to participate in a fourth round of six-party talks this month on ending its nuclear ambitions and said it would never give up its deterrent. US Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said a test would be troubling but would not stop Washington from pursuing the talks to try to resolve the nuclear crisis. Japanese and South Korean officials played down the possibility that North Korea would proceed to launch one of its Rodong missiles. (Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS

Asylum crackdown sought by Russia
Russia yesterday proposed a UN crackdown on the abuse of political asylum for terrorist purposes, raising pressure on Western states to hand over wanted Chechen activists. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced the initiative in a speech to the UN General Assembly following a spate of bloody Chechen attacks including the bombing of two civil airliners and the deadly Beslan school siege. Without naming states such as Britain and Qatar that have given asylum to Chechen rebels and fugitives from Russia, he rebuked countries for giving such people asylum or playing ''geopolitical games" with the fight against terrorism. (Reuters)

BAHAMAS

Devastated by Frances, islands gear for Jeanne
NASSAU -- Bahamians patched roofs shredded by Hurricane Frances as they prepared to face Hurricane Jeanne, which made an elaborate loop in the Atlantic and headed yesterday toward the island chain it threatened last week. Forecasters said heavy rains would begin to lash parts of the northern Bahamas as early as tonight as Jeanne continues on a projected path toward Florida. The Bahamian capital, Nassau, on Providence Island and the second city of Freeport, on Grand Bahama Island, are both in the storm's danger zone. Frances killed two people and damaged thousands of homes when it tore through the Bahamas three weeks ago.(AP)

BELGIUM

French PM airs doubtsover Turkey's EU bid
BRUSSELS -- Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin of France voiced misgivings yesterday about Turkey joining the EU, asking if Europe really wanted ''the river of Islam to enter the riverbed of secularism." His comments to the Wall Street Journal Europe put a spotlight on differences between President Jacques Chirac of France, who has backed Turkey's membership bid, and his own Union for a Popular Movement, which is totally opposed. Raffarin aired his doubts in an interview published hours before the European Union's executive virtually assured Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey that Ankara would get a green light next month to start accession talks. Raffarin said that Turkey had made progress in adjusting its laws and institutions to EU standards, but queried the overwhelmingly Muslim but secular state's ability to stay the course. (Reuters)

ENGLAND

Singer vows to find out why he's barred
LONDON -- Puzzled and angry at being barred from the United States, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens returned to London yesterday vowing to find out why. Surrounded by a throng of reporters at Heathrow Airport, Yusuf Islam said it was ludicrous that he was on Washington's no-fly list for having suspected ties to terrorists, and he said he would challenge the decision to block him from entering the country. ''Half of me wants to smile, and half of me wants to growl. The whole thing is totally ridiculous," said Islam. ''Everybody knows who I am. I am no secret figure. Everybody knows my campaigning for charity, for peace. There's got to be a whole lot of explanation." (AP)

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