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BOSNIAN LEADERS RECANT ON THREAT TO EXPEL U.S. ENVOY

Two members of the Bosnian presidency Wednesday retracted their threat to expel the U.S. ambassador, a day after accusing him and other diplomats of meddling in Bosnian affairs.

Ante Jelavic, the Croat member of Bosnia's three-person presidency, called Ambassador Thomas Miller a "strict but likable diplomat who sometimes is counterproductive because of his political acts" but said the presidency would not consider expulsion.

He and Serb representative Zivko Radisic had threatened Tuesday to revoke his and other diplomats' accreditation. The Muslim member of the presidency, Halid Genjac, opposed such a move.

Diplomats in Bosnia have been pushing for more moderate and democratic political leaders to succeed those who led the country into and through the Bosnian war.

Nationalists have interpreted their support of Bosnia's pro-Western, anti-nationalist opposition as interference in internal matters. But Bosnian state television said the country would join the company of pariah nations such as Iraq, Libya or Yugoslavia if they were expelled.

More Falun Gong members die in Chinese custody

BEIJING (AP) -- A rights group Wednesday said seven more members of the outlawed Falun Gong meditation sect have died in Chinese custody, raising the death toll to 112 in the government crackdown on the group.

Four reportedly died in labor camps, including two who apparently were injured during forced feeding, the Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy said. The family of a 28-year-old woman who had served eight months at a camp said she appeared to have been beaten, the center reported.

Another fell from the balcony at his home and died while trying to escape police who had come to arrest him, the center said. Two more were beaten at jails, the center reported.

The death reports come amid a renewed government campaign against Falun Gong, which Beijing considers an evil cult that cheats followers and has led some 1,600 to their deaths by discouraging modern medicine and driving them to insane self-destructive acts.

Fearing that the group's size and organization could challenge Communist Party rule, China's leaders banned it in July 1999.

North Korea reaches out, forges contact with Spain

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea established diplomatic relations with Spain on Wednesday as the communist country continues reaching out for badly needed economic cooperation.

One of the world's most isolated and reclusive countries, the North has begun opening to the West in recent years. Experts say its main motive is economic aid to rebuild its economy, devastated by years of disastrous weather and government mismanagement.

The North's new diplomatic ties with Spain came a day after it opened formal ties with Canada.

The new relationship "will promote the development of bilateral links in different fields and will provide greater opportunities for exchanges on issues of mutual interest and concern," said a joint communique by Spain and North Korea, carried by the North's official news agency, KCNA, monitored in Seoul, South Korea.

Madrid's Foreign Ministry said Spain's move is part of a broader trend in which Western countries are encouraging the reclusive Stalinist state to end decades of isolation by establishing relations -- diplomatic or otherwise -- with capitalist countries.

Russian weapons trade is a booming business

MOSCOW (AP) -- Weapons exports by Russia last year reached a record high for the decade, with sales nearing $4 billion, a top arms trade official company said Wednesday.

Sales to India accounted for about one-third of the sum, said Viktor Komardin, a deputy head of Rosoboronexport, the top state-run arms exporter, according to the Interfax news agency.

Komardin was in India to prepare a contract for T-90S tanks and other weapons. He said the contract, to be signed in the first quarter of the year, would exceed $1 billion.

Russia's annual arms exports are just a fraction of the approximately $20 billion in arms exported by the Soviet Union each year in the 1980s.

U.S. Marine general offers apology to Okinawa leaders

NAHA, Japan (AP) -- The top U.S. Marine general on Okinawa personally apologized today for calling local leaders "a bunch of wimps" in an e-mail to his staff.

"I deeply apologize for the inappropriate remarks which were in my e-mail," Lt. Gen. Earl Hailston told Gov. Keiichi Inamine at a news conference called to discuss the e-mail, which was published in a major Okinawan newspaper this week.

Hailston said he had "no excuse" for the message, adding that it "certainly did not reflect my true feelings."

Inamine called the incident "very regrettable."

According to the newspaper report, Hailston, responding to the arrest of a Marine last month for lifting a schoolgirl's skirt, urged his staff to crack down on crimes committed by military personnel. But he also criticized Okinawan leaders' failure to stand up to Okinawans who want to reduce the U.S. military presence here.

"I think they are all nuts and a bunch of wimps," the paper quoted him as writing in the e-mail.

Chinese authorities plan more space capsules

BEIJING (AP) -- China plans to build several more of its Shenzhou space capsules over the next five years as it moves toward putting its first astronauts in space "early in this century," state media said Wednesday.

Last month's successful second test flight of an unmanned capsule demonstrated the high level of technology already achieved by China's 9-year-old manned space program, the government-run People's Daily newspaper said.

"Using the historical breakthroughs in space flight technology, China will ultimately send astronauts into space early in this century," the newspaper said.

China aims to join Russia and the United States to become the third nation to put a human in space. Beijing sees manned space flight as a key to proving the Communist Party's ability to transform China into a modern power.

China offers only rare glimpses into its secretive space program.

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