EUROPE

Bomb Damages Serbian Church in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Peacekeepers scrambled to keep a lid on simmering ethnic tensions after a bomb damaged a Serbian Orthodox church under construction in Kosovo's capital.

The early morning blast did little damage to the structure and caused no injuries, but it further undermined the confidence of minority Serbs in the ability of Western peacekeepers to protect them from violence that they say is committed by ethnic Albanians.

The bombing "was not a surprise, because for the last few days we have been telling every day the [peacekeeping] officers that this is going to be the next target," said the Rev. Sava Janjic, a prominent Serbian Orthodox priest in Kosovo. "We very much wonder why it couldn't be prevented."

NATO issued a statement saying it "vigorously condemns this cowardly attack" and said it was investigating.

Computer Malfunction Reported on Mir

MOSCOW -- A malfunction forced the crew of Russia's Mir space station to turn off the main computer, and the craft was operating on a backup guidance system, Mission Control said.

He said the malfunction had happened on Friday and was not dangerous. The crew would probably try to switch the computer back today. They are due to return to earth next month, leaving the station unmanned.

ASIA

S. Korea Lifts Ban on Scenic Tours to North

SEOUL -- In the first friendly gesture after weeks of heightened tension between the Koreas, South Korea said yesterday it will lift a 40-day suspension and allow a sightseeing tour of a scenic North Korean mountain to resume this week.

The tours of Diamond Mountain, started by Seoul's Hyundai Group last November, have been a rare opportunity for South Korean tourists to venture into the Communist North.

More than 80,000 South Koreans have visited the North in the tours, but the visits were suspended in late June in a row over North Korea's detention of a South Korean tourist who was accused of tempting a North Korean tour guide to defect.

Taliban Forces Seize Strategic Air Base

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Forces of the Taliban Islamic militia seized Bagram air base from opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. The base is the Taliban's first major prize in a push to finally establish total dominance over Afghanistan.

Opposition sources acknowledged the loss of Bagram, 50 miles north of Kabul, after the Taliban overran Massoud's defenses shortly before dawn. The offensive is aimed at crushing Massoud, military head of the Afghan government that was driven from Kabul by the Taliban three years ago.

THE AMERICAS

Rebels' Missile Attack Kills 15 in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Marxist rebels have bombarded a small mountain town in northwestern Colombia with homemade missiles, killing as many as 15 people and destroying at least 40 buildings, a senior army commander said yesterday.

Gen. Victor Alvarez, head of the army's 1st Division, said eight policemen and seven civilians were reported dead in the town of Narino, in Antioquia province, in the attack that began late Friday and ended shortly before dawn yesterday.

He did not specify which of Colombia's three main rebel groups was responsible. But the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia frequently use missiles made from gas cylinders packed with high explosives.

Venezuelan Officials Say Plane Was Hijacked

CARACAS, Venezuela -- A Venezuelan airliner missing since Friday with 16 people aboard was almost certainly hijacked, possibly by Colombian drug traffickers, Venezuelan authorities said.

A two-day air and ground search failed to locate the twin-engine plane operated by Avior since it disappeared from radar on a short flight between the southwestern towns of Barinas and Guasdualito, near the Venezuelan border with Colombia.

Probe Targets Police Corruption in Mexico

MEXICO CITY -- Justice officials have opened a sweeping investigation into alleged links between police and organized crime in Sinaloa, a northwestern state rife with drug trafficking, Mexican media reported. Four state Judicial Police officers have been indicted and 40 others are under investigation for suspected corruption, state Attorney General Gilberto Higuera Bernal said, according to the daily La Jornada.

On Its Birthday, China's Army Warns Taiwan

BEIJING -- China's army, the world's largest, marked its 72nd birthday with warnings to Taiwan that it was ready to "smash any plot to split the nation."

Defense Minister Chi Haotian repeated the government's accusations that Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui last month had gone further down the "dangerous road of splitting the motherland" in suggesting that China and Taiwan deal with each other as separate states.

"We sternly warn Lee Teng-hui and the Taiwan authorities not to underestimate our constancy of purpose," Chi said at a reception Saturday to mark the army's Aug. 1 anniversary.

AFRICA

Vote on Peace Deal Set for Sept. 16 in Algeria

ALGIERS -- Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that a promised referendum on his peace deal with a Muslim guerrilla faction will take place on Sept. 16.

The accord was reached in June with the Islamic Salvation Army, the guerrilla wing of the Islamic Salvation Front. More radical groups are continuing their war against the state, but analysts said Bouteflika hopes the referendum will push both Islamic radicals and government and military hawks to the sidelines.

Rebel Leader Agrees to Cease-Fire in Congo

JOHANNESBURG -- Congolese rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba agreed to stop fighting in Congo, but said he would go back to war if a rival rebel group did not sign a truce within a week.

Bemba signed a cease-fire in Lusaka, Zambia, that six African nations involved in the Congo war had signed on April 10. "But I will withdraw my signature unless the others also sign within seven days," Bemba said, referring to the Congolese Rally for Democracy, which has refused to agree to the truce because of internal divisions.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"My wife would kill me."

Dragoslav Avramovic, a Yugoslav opposition group's choice to succeed President Slobodan Milosevic, on what would happen if he accepted such an offer -- Page A13