AFRICA

10 Americans Feared Dead in Plane Crash

ARUSHA, Tanzania -- A charter plane carrying 10 American tourists from Tanzania's Serengeti National Park crashed in bad weather yesterday on the slopes of Mount Meru, Africa's fifth-highest mountain. There was no immediate word on survivors.

Rescuers circled the crash site in a helicopter, but low clouds and drizzle made it difficult to see and impossible to land, said Regional Police Commander Juma Ng'amag'waka. The flight was en route from the park to Kilimanjaro International Airport in Tanzania to connect with another flight going to Nairobi.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said U.S. officials have received a manifest from the charter company and were in the process of contacting the passengers' families.

In Tanzania, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said the tourists came from Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, California and New Jersey. Seven other American tourists from the same group but on a different plane arrived safely at Kilimanjaro airport.

Hopes, Fears Voiced Over Congo Peace Deal

KINSHASA, Congo -- Civilians in the rebel-held city of Kisangani welcomed the start of a cease-fire in the year-old war in Congo, but here in the capital, President Laurent Kabila's government reacted cautiously to Tuesday's signing of the deal by its main rebel enemies.

"We have noted with concern the divisions among the [rebel] delegates, and we believe that it will be difficult to translate into action something signed by 50 people," Information Minister Didier Mumengi said.

In Lusaka, Zambia, the main rebel leader demanded that Kabila resign before further talks begin -- a new condition bound to complicate the search for peace. "He must stand aside and come into the talks like any other Congolese. He cannot come in as president of the country. That is simply unacceptable and nonnegotiable," said Emile Ilunga, head of the Rwandan-backed faction of the Congolese Rally for Democracy.

Ethiopia Says It Downed Private Plane

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia -- Ethiopia said it had shot down a civilian jet this week near its disputed border with Eritrea, killing a Swedish and a British national.

An Ethiopian government statement said that the plane was shot down Sunday in its "no-fly" zone near the northern town of Adwa, around 25 miles from the Eritrean border, and that the bodies had been recovered from the wreckage. Ethiopia declared a no-fly zone over its mountainous northern region last year at the start of a border war with Eritrea in which tens of thousands have been reported killed. The Learjet 35A was being flown to South Africa by British pilot Alan Lewis, 47, and Swedish co-pilot Anders Rors, 48, said a spokesman for ExecuJet Aviation Group, which was to refurbish the plane.

THE AMERICAS

Death Toll in Argentine Crash Hits 70

BUENOS AIRES -- At least 70 people were killed in Tuesday night's airliner crash at Buenos Aires' metropolitan airport, officials said.

"There are 70 dead. There are 10 people that were not on board the plane but were in the street," a morgue official said. The plane, bound for the city of Cordoba, failed to take off and plowed through heavy traffic on a highway.

The death toll included motorists driving on a major artery alongside the airport and into the path of the Boeing 737 jet that was carrying 98 passengers and five crew. The Lineas Aereas Privadas Argentina flight shot off the runway and across the street before bursting into flames on a nearby golf course. So far 44 people have been counted among the injured. Doctors said some survivors were burned on 96 percent of their bodies.

Cuba Expects 4 Percent Economic Growth

HAVANA -- Cuba predicted its economy would grow more than 4 percent in 1999, up from 1.2 percent last year, thanks mainly to improvements in the island's tourism and sugar sectors.

The government had already reported a 6.1 percent increase in gross domestic product for the first six months of the year, compared with the same period in 1998. Finances and Prices Minister Manuel Millares said in an interview published in this week's edition of the business weekly Negocios: "Maybe by the end of the year it won't be possible to maintain a rate of 6 percent growth, but I consider that it should not be lower than 4 percent."

THE MIDDLE EAST

Hamas Militants Claim Killing of Couple

GAZA CITY -- The military arm of the Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the killing this week of two Israeli hikers near the West Bank.

In a statement faxed to the Reuters news agency, the Izzidin Qassem Brigades said: "Proof of Qassem's fight against the occupation and the herd of settlers is the killing by one of our armed cells of two Zionist settlers in the Meggido area."

The bodies of a 26-year-old man and his 21-year-old girlfriend, both residents of northern Israel, were found Monday in a secluded area bordering the West Bank.

Russia Makes More Gains Against Rebels

MAKHACHKALA, Russia -- Government troops seized the main base of Islamic militants in a southern Russian region and were fighting for control of the rebels' remaining stronghold, officials said.

Federal troops occupied the mountain village of Karamakhi late Tuesday. The village in the Caucasus Mountains region of Dagestan had been the militants' main headquarters since last year. Tuesday night, snipers drove most government forces back out of Karamakhi, but the troops returned yesterday and regained control over most of the village, Interior Ministry spokesman Yevgeny Ryabtsev said.

EUROPE

Pope Says Church to Ask Forgiveness

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II said the Catholic Church would start a new page of its history in 2000 by publicly seeking forgiveness for the errors, injustices and human rights offenses it committed.

Speaking at his weekly general audience, the pope did not specifically list the church's errors but previous Vatican documents have spoken of seeking forgiveness for its treatment of Jews, the Inquisition and human rights abuses.

"As the church looks to the great jubilee of the year 2000, she is aware of her continual need of purification and penance," he said. "She therefore wishes to ask pardon for the sins and weaknesses of her children down the ages."

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"They arrive and say: Take me to your chief."

Salih Booker, of the Council on Foreign Relations, describing problems with U.S. diplomacy in Africa -- Page A29