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EUROPEAN UNION GEARS UP FOR SWITCH TO EURO CURRENCY

Belgian Finance Minister Didier Reynders became the first European to withdraw euro cash from an ATM.

"It works!" Reynders said Saturday, proudly displaying the 150 euros from a cash machine set up for a weekend meeting of European Union finance ministers.

"I will be keeping the receipt. I will be the first European with such a bank statement," he told reporters as he handed the cash to Belgian Bank President Guy Quaden.

While Reynders was busy withdrawing money, EU Finance and Economic Affairs Commissioner Pedro Solbes was the first to buy a drink from a vending machine with euro coins.

Solbes settled on bottled water, which cost him 1 euro.

"We are well-prepared," Reynders said after using the machines, adding that the EU was well on its way for the introduction of euro notes and coins when they become legal tender Jan. 1.

Ministers reviewed preparations for the switch-over from national currencies to the euro. Only three countries in the 15-nation European bloc -- Britain, Sweden and Denmark -- will not be using the single euro currency.

N. Korea scoffs at charge by CIA on missile exports

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea denied a CIA report that said the communist state continued to export missile equipment and technology to countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa last year.

"It's nothing but a shameless allegation," state-run Korean Central Radio said Friday. "The United States is absurdly picking quarrels with us and other countries."

In a report to Congress earlier this month, the CIA said North Korea "places a high priority (on) the development and sale of ballistic missiles," one of the isolated country's main sources of hard currency.

North Korea continued to sell ballistic missile parts, equipment and technology to countries in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa throughout the second half of 2000, it said. It did not elaborate.

For years, the United States has accused North Korea of being a leading exporter of missile parts and technology to countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.

Suez Canal security tight as British ships pass through

ISMAILIYA, Egypt (AP) -- Twelve warships and a submarine passed through the Suez Canal on Saturday in a steady buildup of British forces in the Persian Gulf ahead of two-week war games with Oman set for mid-October.

Britain has offered to contribute to a military force that the United States is assembling for a campaign against terrorists, but says these war games are not directly related to that campaign.

The British fleet included 12 ships and one submarine, the HMS Superb.

A total of 25 ships are expected to be deployed in the region, in addition to ground troops and warplanes. It is the biggest deployment of Royal Navy ships since the 1982 Falklands War.

Some 14,000 Omani soldiers and 24,000 British soldiers are expected to participate in the exercises, which will be held 261 miles south of the capital, Muscat.

Security was tight at the canal crossing, with police boats escorting the British ships along the way.

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