Pakistan's peace efforts criticized

KABUL, Afghanistan - Militant violence in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse as Pakistan pursues peace with militants in an effort to end a wave of bombings that have killed hundreds of Pakistanis in recent years, a NATO official said yesterday.

"We understand their desire to come to peace agreements with militants, but there is no real solution if trouble on one side of the [border] is merely transferred to the other side," NATO spokesman Mark Laity said.

Laity's comments came a day after Pakistan's top Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, said he was sending fighters to battle U.S. troops in Afghanistan even as he sought peace with the Pakistani government. Mehsud is based in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan's tribal belt regarded as an al-Qaeda refuge.

- AP

Farmers protest Argentine tax hike

ROSARIO, Argentina - Hundreds of thousands of Argentines rallied in the country's second-largest city yesterday to protest grain export-tax increases that farmers say are suffocating the sector.

Gaucho hat-wearing farmers on tractors filled Rosario's main square to demand the government relent on the export restrictions during talks planned for today. If it doesn't, they said, they may return to the road blockages and protests that caused shortages of beef, produce and other staples this spring.

President Cristina Fernandez contends farmers are benefiting from a price boom and the profits should be redistributed to the poor. At a separate rally yesterday to mark the Revolution Day holiday in the northern city of Salta, she urged Argentines to understand that "before any sector, before our own individuality, come the interests of the country."

- AP

British and U.S. unions to merge

LONDON - Britain's largest union said yesterday that it was merging with United Steelworkers, creating the first transatlantic labor organization.

UNITE, which represents more than two million workers in Britain's transportation, energy and public sectors, among others, is set to join United Steelworkers, which has 850,000 members in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

UNITE spokesman Andrew Murray said the unions were joining forces because both had been left behind by globalization. Murray said the new union's two component parts would maintain their separate identities, at least at first. In an e-mail, United Steelworkers spokesman Gary Hubbard confirmed the union was completing a merger with UNITE.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A large cargo jet

broke apart close to a row of houses while trying to abort a takeoff yesterday at the airport in Brussels, Belgium, authorities said. Four of the five crew members on board the Boeing 747-200 were slightly injured. The plane did not catch fire, and no injuries on the ground were reported.

Streets were largely deserted

over the weekend in a Mexican city across from Texas where a widely circulated e-mail warned of a bloodbath. But violence did not appear to be worse than usual in Ciudad Juarez, home base of a drug cartel. Officials reported at least six homicides since Saturday, including two police officers who were riddled with machine-gun fire.

An Iranian-born Israeli

was charged yesterday with passing defense information to Iran, police said. The man, who lives abroad, was arrested May 8 after arriving in Israel for a visit. The man told interrogators he repeatedly visited the Iranian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and gave the Iranians names of people he said he had served in the Israeli security forces.