THE AMERICAS

Colombian Rebels Free 5 Hostages

CALI, Colombia -- Marxist rebels yesterday freed five people kidnapped from a church in southwest Colombia but more than 50 others remained in rebel hands on the seventh day of a hostage crisis that has shocked the nation.

Humberto Alzate, governor of Valle del Cauca province of which Cali is the capital, said two women, both 52, two elderly men and a teenage boy were handed to the Red Cross. Some were apparently in poor health.

The release came after President Andres Pastrana bowed to demands from the Cuban-inspired National Liberation Army (ELN) that he suspend a massive military operation aimed at hunting down the rebels and freeing their captives.

Last Sunday, ELN commandos swept into the La Maria Roman Catholic church in an upper-class neighborhood of Cali -- Colombia's second-largest city -- and abducted 143 people, bundling them off into the nearby Andes. The rebels freed 84 of the churchgoers soon after the raid, but 59 others were still being held before yesterday's release.

Three More Killers Executed in Trinidad

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad -- Three more convicted killers died in Trinidad's gallows, bringing to six the number of people put to death here since Friday. Three more men were scheduled to hang Monday.

Trinidad on Friday hanged three of the nine men convicted of murdering four people in a 1994 drug dispute. The last three men convicted in the killings were to be hanged Monday. The executions of Clive Thomas, Robin Gopaul and Russel Sankerali were the Caribbean island nation's first in nearly five years.

Venezuela Begins Sending Colombians Home

CASIGUA EL CUBO, Venezuela -- Venezuela repatriated more than 1,000 people who had fled Colombia's paramilitary death squads in a mass exodus that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called "a mini-Kosovo."

About 1,500 more Colombians were expected to be sent back to their homeland today.

The Colombians, many of whom work in coca fields growing the raw material for cocaine, fled the eastern Colombian town of La Gabarra after paramilitary squads began an offensive there May 29. Most of the civilian population of La Gabarra has fled as leftist guerrillas and paramilitary groups fight each other for control of the coca-growing region. On Friday, the Colombian army also took up positions in the town.

AFRICA

Dispute Rises Over 270,000 S. African Votes

JOHANNESBURG -- As Thabo Mbeki, who is expected to be South Africa's next president, pondered his cabinet choices, reports emerged that more than a quarter-million people not on voter lists cast ballots in last week's elections.

With Mbeki's African National Congress on the verge of winning a two-thirds majority -- which would allow it to change the constitution -- the issue is critical, New National Party spokeswoman Juli Kilian said. "We need to know if this over-vote will affect whether they get the two-thirds or not," Kilian said.

Election official Norman de Plessis acknowledged that 270,000 people whose names were not on voter rolls had cast ballots in Wednesday's election, the Saturday Star newspaper reported. However, he said those people had documents indicating they had registered.

With results in from all polling stations, the ANC had 66.2 percent of the vote. Final official results are expected today. Meanwhile, eight opposition parties have hired an independent auditor to verify the results and the New National Party and other opposition parties said they might challenge the results.

EUROPE

In Poland, Pope Pays Tribute to Gdansk

GDANSK, Poland -- Welcomed as Poland's favorite son, Pope John Paul II came home and paid tribute to the Baltic port city of Gdansk where the "cry of conscience" against Communist rule rang out.

Tens of thousands of Poles lined streets and highways to get a glimpse of the frail, 79-year-old pontiff at the start of his 13-day tour of the country. Amid the Polish and Vatican flags were the red-and-white banners of Solidarity, the trade union that rose from the Gdansk shipyards to unseat the Communist regime.

John Paul's first visit to Poland as pope 20 years ago helped spark the creation of Solidarity, the first free labor union in what was then the Soviet bloc. Formed a year after the visit, Solidarity spread into a nationwide movement that toppled Communist rule in 1989.

Scottish Bank Drops Deal With Robertson

EDINBURGH, Scotland -- The Bank of Scotland dropped plans to launch a U.S. telephone banking service with religious broadcaster Pat Robertson after he referred to Scotland as a "dark land" because it tolerates homosexuals, the bank said.

During a meeting in Boston on Friday, the bank's chief executive, Peter Burt, and Robertson "agreed that the changed external circumstances made the proposed joint venture between Robertson Financial Services and Bank of Scotland unfeasible," the bank said in a statement with Robertson.

Five Held in N. Ireland Sectarian Killing

BELFAST -- Police in Northern Ireland said they had made five arrests in a hunt for Protestant extremists who killed a woman in a sectarian bombing in the town of Portadown.

Police said "loyalist" militants hostile to peace efforts in the British-ruled province carried out the attack, which comes in the preparation period for the main parade of the marching season at Drumcree in July. No group claimed immediate responsibility.

The victim, Elizabeth O'Neill, 59, was watching television in her living room Friday when the bomb was thrown through the window, police said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Group Claims Attempt on U.S. Consulate

ISTANBUL -- An underground leftist group claimed responsibility for a thwarted attack on the U.S. consulate, Turkey's Anatolia news agency reported.

Police shot to death the two attackers, armed with guns and a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, before they had a chance to fire on the consulate Friday. The Revolutionary People's Salvation Party-Front said in a statement sent to authorities that the attackers were members of the group, Anatolia reported.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"A year ago I was sitting at the same table having coffee [with Serbs]. And some of the people I sat with put on uniforms and burned our houses. I can never live with those people again."

-- Qemal Rahmani, a Kosovo Albanian refugee