It's touch and go, as tourists flee Honduras and Belize

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - Planes shuttled tourists from island resorts in a desperate airlift yesterday as Hurricane Felix bore down on Honduras and Belize.

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Grupo Taca Airlines provided special free flights to the mainland, quickly touching down and taking off again to scoop up more tourists. About 1,000 people were evacuated from the Honduran island of Roatan, popular for its pristine reefs and diving resorts.

Felix's top winds weakened slightly to 135 mph as it headed west, but forecasters warned that it could strengthen again before landfall early today along the Miskito Coast, where thousands of natives are stranded.

N. Korea says it's off terror list; U.S. says not so fast

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea announced yesterday that the United States had agreed to lift economic sanctions and remove it from a list of countries accused of sponsoring terrorism, a move that would satisfy one of the North Korean government's principal conditions for giving up nuclear weapons.

But a State Department spokeswoman said she did not have confirmation, and Christopher R. Hill, the chief U.S. envoy to the nuclear talks, said yesterday that the North Koreans still had work to do.

More scandals in Japan;

opposition wants elections

TOKYO - Japan's main opposition party pressed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday to dissolve the lower house of Parliament and call a general election after a fresh round of scandals.

Only a week after the deeply unpopular Abe reshuffled his Cabinet, his new agriculture minister was forced to resign over revelations that he had misused farm subsidies. Also, a high-level appointee to the Foreign Ministry was forced to step down after admitting her office had fabricated expense reports.

Panama to widen canal; it's expected to cut U.S. costs

PANAMA CITY, Panama - Panama blasted away part of a hillside next to the canal yesterday.

Panamanian President Martin Torrijos celebrated the start of construction on two wider sets of locks being added to both sides of the 93-year-old canal.

"We are witnesses to an exceptional and unique act," Torrijos said moments after the explosion sent up a curtain of smoke and water.

The $5.25 billion expansion is expected to double the 50-mile canal's capacity and lower the price of consumer goods on the East Coast of the United States by allowing wider vessels to squeeze through with more cargo.

Hookers drop assault charges against Gadhafi's nephew

LONDON - Two call girls have dropped assault charges against the nephew of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, Britain's Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday.

The two women had alleged they were beaten up by Mohammed al-Sanussi, 26, at his London home on Nov. 17. The women said in court documents the attack occurred after they tried to leave when a dispute over money erupted. Sanussi was arrested after police went to the house.

One of the women, Karen Etchebery, claimed she was followed shortly after going to police.

"I withdrew from the case because I was scared," she told the Sunday Times.

The case began three weeks ago in London's Blackfriars court, but the judge issued a gag order that shielded al-Sanussi's nationality and all but silenced any coverage of the case.

Al-Sanussi's father, Abdullah, is the head of Libya's intelligence service and Gadhafi's brother-in-law. *

-Daily News wire services