EUROPE

Russians Attack Rebels in Dagestan

MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- More than 200 gunmen surrounded three villages in Dagestan near the border of breakaway Chechnya yesterday and were attacked by Russian helicopter gunships, officials said.

The gunmen appeared to be from the fundamentalist Wahhabi Islamic movement, also blamed for an attack last week in the nearby Tsumadi district, Dagestani authorities said. The group has been active in Chechnya and Dagestan since the 1994 launch of Chechnya's war for independence.

Cape Verde Coast Guard Plane Crashes

LISBON, Portugal -- A plane carrying up to 20 people crashed shortly after takeoff from a Cape Verde island off the coast of West Africa, news reports said.

The number of casualties in the crash of the Cape Verde Coast Guard plane was not immediately known, the Portuguese news agency Lusa reported. The Dornier aircraft came down near the Ponta do Sol airfield, on the island of Santo Antao, Lusa quoted a civil aviation official as saying.

Croatia to Surrender War Crimes Suspect

ZAGREB, Croatia -- Croatia's Justice Minister Zvonimir Separovic said Zagreb is ready to surrender former Bosnian Croat warlord Vinko "Stela" Martinovic to the U.N. war crimes tribunal. He did not say when Martinovic would be extradited, but said he expected it could be next week.

Macedonia to Drop Fee on Aid Shipments

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Macedonia has agreed to drop a prohibitive customs fee on aid shipments into neighboring Kosovo province after protests by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, agency officials said.

The U.S. refugee office said earlier in the week that it was refusing to pay the $350 levy on every truck and railway car bearing relief supplies across Macedonian territory into the Yugoslav province because this was jeopardizing its relief operation there.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Palestinians Protest Insult to Arafat

GAZA CITY -- Thousands of Palestinians were bused to Yasser Arafat's headquarters for a demonstration protesting the Syrian defense minister's insult of the Palestinian leader.

About 50 masked members of Arafat's Fatah group shot their semiautomatic weapons in the air. Another 5,000 chanted slogans praising Arafat.

In a speech in Lebanon last week, Syrian Defense Minister Mustafa Talas harshly criticized Arafat for making concessions to Israel, calling him "the son of 60,000 whores" and comparing him to a stripper.

Turkey Lifts Ban on Former Premier

ANKARA -- Turkey's government has agreed to lift a political ban on Islamic former prime minister Necmettin Erbakan in return for opposition help to pass a law allowing international financial arbitration, newspapers reported.

Early last year, Erbakan was barred from politics for five years and his Welfare Party was banned on charges of trying to subvert the secular constitution. Six months earlier, he was toppled from power under pressure from the powerful army.

Passing the constitutional change to allow international arbitration is among conditions set by the International Monetary Fund for Turkey to secure a new loan package.

Iraq Assails Iran on Anniversary of War

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi newspapers launched a broadside of criticism against Iran to mark the 11th anniversary of the end of the two countries' ruinous war.

Showing how deep the enmity between them remains, editorials attacked the clerical rulers in Tehran and accused them of posing threats to Baghdad's security and territorial integrity. Baghdad and Tehran frequently blame each other for the 1980-88 war, which claimed the lives of nearly a million people from the two Muslim countries.

AFRICA

Rival Rebel Groups Skirmish in Congo

KISANGANI, Congo -- Rival rebel factions fought a gun battle yesterday at the rebel stronghold of Kisangani, preventing a Zambian peace delegation from flying into the jungle city.

Soldiers loyal to Ugandan-backed rebel leader Ernest Wamba dia Wamba battled Rwandan-backed troops of Emile Ilunga at an airport in the northeastern city on the Congo River. The fight lasted around 10 minutes before Ilunga's troops were stopped, and there were no reports of casualties.

As a result of the battle and an earlier shootout in the center of the city, Erik Silwamba, Zambian presidential affairs minister, delayed his arrival in Kisangani, rebel troops said. Silwamba went to Congo in an attempt to persuade the divided rebel Congolese Rally for Democracy factions to sign onto a peace accord signed in the Zambian capital last month.

ASIA

Pakistani Rebel Meets Bin Laden

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A Pakistani militant group said one of its commanders had met Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, blamed for two deadly U.S. embassy bombings, on Friday, the eve of the first anniversary of the attacks.

The Al-Badar Mujaheddin group said in a statement its "commander in chief" Naseer Ahmad Mujahid met bin Laden at Darunta, northwest of Afghanistan's main eastern town of Jalalabad, and vowed to fight to protect him against any U.S. attack.

THE AMERICAS

Argentines Join in Prayer Vigil for Jobs

BUENOS AIRES -- Hundreds of thousands of Argentines made a pilgrimage to pray at a Buenos Aires church for something their recession-hit economy has been unable to provide -- jobs.

Lining up for more than a mile and a half in chilly rain, the faithful converged on the Church of San Cayetano, the patron saint of work, in Liniers, a working class suburb west of the capital.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"War is not a foot race; it's more like a soccer game."

--Col. Qiao Liang, Chinese military theorist -- Page A1