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A Chinese-born American writer accused of spying for Taiwan "confessed to his crimes" and was expelled from the country Friday, state media said -- the fourth U.S.-based scholar released from custody this year in the days before a top American official's visit.

Wu Jianmin was released from jail in southern China and "has left the country," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. He "appeared in generally good health," the statement said.

Wu, 46, was taken into custody April 8. He is one of several Chinese-born academics, writers and entrepreneurs with American ties detained during the past year.

There was no independent confirmation that Wu had indeed confessed to anything.

Wu reportedly left China for the United States in 1988 and published a book about China's government following pro-democracy protests the following year. He became an American citizen and lived in New York City.

China and Taiwan split amid civil war in 1949, but Beijing regards the island as part of its territory. The two sides actively spy on each other.

N. Ireland Protestant group
vows to resume cease-fire

HILLSBOROUGH, Northern Ireland (AP) -- An outlawed Protestant group has promised to stop its attacks on Catholics and police and resume its cease-fire, a pledge that will be immediately tested, Britain announced Friday.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said he had been prepared to announce that the Ulster Defense Association's 1994 cease-fire had collapsed, a ruling that could have put senior members back in jail. Instead, he accepted a last-minute promise from the group's commanders to stop the rioting and other violence of recent weeks.

Police have accused the UDA of orchestrating rioting in north Belfast, where Protestants have mounted daily protests outside a Catholic girls' primary school.

"While I am deeply skeptical of any words coming from this organization, even at this 11th hour, I am willing to put the UDA to the test," Reid said at his Hillsborough Castle residence outside Belfast.

UDA members had been blamed for more than 200 pipe bomb attacks on Catholic property this year, and for fatally shooting a Catholic man and a Protestant teenager.

U.N. and Annan favored
to win Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO, Norway (AP) -- The Nobel Peace Prize committee decided its 2001 award Friday in the shadow of terror attacks on the United States, with members sticking to a tradition of silence until the winner is announced next month.

The committee itself never reveals the names of candidates, although some names are announced by those making the individual nominations.

This year, those names included the United Nations and its secretary-general, Kofi Annan; U.S. peace broker Richard Holbrooke; the International Red Cross; Chinese Falun Gong movement founder Li Hongzhi; jailed Israeli nuclear technician Mordechai Vanunu; Japanese historian Saburo Iebaga; Thich Quang Do, a dissident Buddhist monk in Vietnam; former President Jimmy Carter; and former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari. The European Court of Human Rights and Cuban President Fidel Castro were also among the nominees.

Stein Toennesson, director of the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, said Annan and the United Nations would probably have been top candidates before the deadline and that world reaction to the terror attacks would seem to increase their chances.

The prizes were created by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel in his will and are always presented on the anniversary of his death in 1896.

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