ASIA

Tourist Held in N. Korea Returns to South

SEOUL -- A South Korean tourist returned home today after a six-day detention in North Korea for allegedly urging a northerner to defect. Her release resolved a thorny dispute.

Still accusing the woman of being an agent for the South, North Korea released her yesterday evening in its first conciliatory gesture since last week's naval skirmish heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Only hours after her release, however, the U.S. State Department said North Korea arrested an unidentified American on an apparent business trip nine days ago and was not granting consular access.

The South Korean tourist was handed over to the Hyundai Group, the South Korean conglomerate that sponsored the tour that she was taking when detained.

Estrada's Reprieve for Rapist Is Too Late

MANILA -- President Joseph Estrada changed his mind yesterday about whether to save a convicted rapist from execution, but it was too late: His telephone call went through one minute after Eduardo Agbayani was pronounced dead. A nagging busy signal and the telltale scratch-and-beep of an engaging fax machine blocked Estrada from telling prison officials of his last-minute decision.

Thus did Agbayani, convicted of raping his daughter, become the Philippines' second execution since it restored capital punishment in 1994, Estrada's spokesman said.

Estrada, who had said earlier that he would not grant a reprieve, changed his mind five minutes before the scheduled start of the lethal injection after emotional appeals from one of the defendant's daughters and a Roman Catholic bishop.

India Pounds Intruders in the Himalayas

NEW DELHI -- Indian fighter jets pounded infiltrators in Kashmir mountain hideouts as the United States stepped up pressure on Pakistan to end the fighting.

India denied that Washington's involvement amounted to third-party mediation in a dispute that has plunged the nuclear neighbors into war twice since their independence in 1947.

But New Delhi welcomed mounting support from Western nations and prepared to receive a U.S. State Department official on Sunday. India will then send its most senior diplomat to London and Paris for talks early next week.

Gen. Anthony Zinni, the commander of the U.S. Central Command, met with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad, and brought a message from President Clinton stressing the need to defuse the tension.

China-Backed Figure Holds First Baptisms

BEIJING -- The Beijing-anointed reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, Tibetan Buddhism's second-ranking figure, held his first baptism of lamas and disciples, the official New China News Agency said. The 11th Panchen Lama held ceremonies on Thursday at the 15th-century Tashi Lhunpo lamasery near Shigatse, Tibet's second-largest city, the agency said.

U.S., Philippines to Resume War Games

MANILA -- The Philippines and the United States said they would resume military exercises next year, the first since 1996. "We are in the early planning stages. . .the exact details will be announced between now and January to March of next year when the exercises begin," said Adm. Dennis Blair, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command.

AFRICA

Nigeria Reassures Sierra Leone on War's End

FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo told Sierra Leone that a negotiated end to its civil war was in sight and assured its people that Nigeria would keep its troops there as peacekeepers. He was speaking a day after visiting U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson denounced abuses in Sierra Leone's war as worse than those in Serbia's province of Kosovo. Sierra Leone combatants reached a cease-fire last month after eight years of fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people in the West African nation.

EUROPE

Duma Passes Additional Austerity Laws

MOSCOW -- The Communist-backed lower house of parliament passed more measures in an austerity package that must be adopted to help Russia qualify for a desperately needed International Monetary Fund loan. The package is a combination of cost-cutting and revenue-boosting measures the IMF has demanded as a main condition for releasing the $4.45 billion loan, needed to pay off older debts to the fund.

Germany Backs New Holocaust Memorial

BERLIN -- Germany's parliament approved the building of a national Holocaust memorial in Berlin and selected a design by U.S. architect Peter Eisenman envisioning a field of tombstone-like pillars.

After nearly a decade of argument and indecision over the best way for Germany to remember the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis, the Bundestag's decision was a crucial step toward realizing the project.

Bomb Found During Russian Premier's Visit

MOSCOW -- A powerful radio-controlled bomb was found on a road in a volatile southern Russian republic where Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin was visiting, news reports said. The bomb was discovered on a road between the cities of Makhachkala and Buynaksk in Dagestan, a region near breakaway Chechnya, the Interfax news agency reported.

Stepashin had no plans to travel by car, and covered the distance between the two cities in a helicopter, the report said, citing Dagestan police. But the bomb was found just 15 minutes after journalists covering the Stepashin visit drove along the road.

FOR THE RECORD

MEXICO CITY -- Two days of torrential rains from a tropical depression have sent rivers over their banks in southwestern Mexico, killing one woman and forcing hundreds to flee their homes, officials said.

BEIRUT -- Lebanon's highest court sentenced three former Christian militiamen to death in absentia and their notorious Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea to life in prison for killing a Sunni Muslim prime minister in 1987.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"If not for NATO, the Serbs would have killed us."

Ethnic Albanian refugee Shani Vorfaj