German Ruling Party Loses Regional Votes

BERLIN--Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's ruling Social Democrats suffered another crushing defeat in state and local elections yesterday, putting more pressure on the German leader to scale back austerity measures that have been fiercely opposed by many of his party's traditional supporters.

The Social Democrats were tossed out of the ruling coalition in the eastern state of Thuringia when voters gave an absolute majority to their partner, the Christian Democrats. Even more significantly, they lost control of key western cities, including Dortmund and Cologne, that were long considered party strongholds in the nation's industrial heartland.

The latest setbacks followed last week's poor showing, when Schroeder's party surrendered its 14-year reign over the Saarland, which borders France, and lost its outright majority in eastern Brandenburg. The Social Democrats also face a likely defeat next month in the capital of Berlin.

If the string of electoral losses persists, political commentators say Schroeder's leadership may soon be called into question. Some Social Democrats already have begun to discuss the prospect that defense minister Rudolf Scharping might replace Schroeder as chancellor and party leader unless the tailspin can be stopped.

Britons Demand Prosecution of Soviet Spy

LONDON--Calls grew to prosecute Melita Norwood, the 87-year-old woman who was revealed publicly this weekend as a spy who passed invaluable information on the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's government said it has ordered an inquiry by the MI5 intelligence agency, but there was no immediate explanation of why Norwood has not been prosecuted. Norwood said she spied "not to make money but to help prevent the defeat of a new system which had at great cost given ordinary people food and fares which they could afford, good education and a health service."

In addition to investigating Norwood's case, the government also announced a probe into a former police detective, John Symonds, who allegedly worked for the KGB for more than 10 years and slept with employees of foreign embassies to extract secrets.

The spying revelations emerged in media reports about classified files smuggled out of Russia by a former KGB agent who fled Moscow in 1992.

Russian Troops Seize 2 Dagestani Villages

MAKHACHKALA, Russia--Russian troops hoisted flags over an area where they have been fighting Islamic guerrillas for more than a month, saying they had dislodged the rebels from two village strongholds in the southern region of Dagestan.

The Russians have seized control of the villages of Karamakhi and Chabanmakhi before, but lost them to the tenacious rebels, who have built tunnels and entrenchments to resist government forces. The militants took over several villages in Dagestan last year and implemented their strict interpretation of the Koran.

Russian Tycoon's Swiss Accounts FrozenMOSCOW--Swiss bank accounts linked to Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky have been frozen, a top prosecutor said in a broadcast interview.

Prosecutor Nikolai Volkov said Swiss bank accounts belonging to Berezovsky or "those firms relating to him" have been frozen. Volkov, speaking on Russia's Itogi news magazine program, did not name the firms or say how much money was in the accounts.

Russian prosecutors suspect that Berezovsky set up two firms, Andava and Forus Services, to hide $250 million of the airline Aeroflot's hard-currency earnings outside Russia. Berezovsky has denied the accusations.


American, 11 Others Abducted in Ecuador

QUITO, Ecuador--An armed band abducted an American and seven Canadians who were working on an oil project in eastern Ecuador near the Colombian border, Ecuador's military said. Four European tourists visiting Ecuador's Cuyabeno ecological reserve were also seized.

The oil workers were installing a pipeline in the Sucumbios, 30 miles from the Colombian border, and were being guarded by four Ecuadorean soldiers when they were ambushed Saturday by about 25 armed assailants, regional commander Col. Luis Ramirez said. One soldier was killed in the attack.

Ramirez said the hostages are employees of a Canadian company, United Pipelines Systems, working under contract from City Investing oil company.

He identified the American as Leonard Carter, 23, but did not know his hometown.

Ecuadoran authorities said they believed Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was responsible.

The FARC dominates the countryside in the southern Colombian state of Putumayo near the Ecuadoran border, and Ecuador's defense minister this year accused the group of operating bases in Ecuadoran territory.


Police Break Up Protests in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh--Police in Dhaka fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse nearly 3,000 anti-government protesters who exploded crude bombs, attacked government offices and set vehicles on fire. At least 150 people were injured.

The daylong demonstration was organized by the country's main opposition parties to press for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's resignation and for new elections. The parties will begin a three-day nationwide general strike today to protest what they described as the roughing up of protesters by the police, said opposition spokesman Mohammad Kamruzzman.


Zimbabwean Diplomat Killed in S. Africa

JOHANNESBURG--Zimbabwe's vice consul in South Africa was gunned down by thieves in Johannesburg in front of his 11-year-old son, police said. The incident on Saturday is the latest in a series of violent attacks on diplomats in a country battling one of the highest crime rates in the world.

Madzorera Meki was shot in the head outside the home of a colleague in the Johannesburg suburb of Bedfordview by thieves who took his car, police spokeswoman Capt. Rochelle Gouws said. Meki's son Tawanda was unharmed, but was later treated for shock at a local hospital.


"We cannot wait any longer. We have to stop the suffering."

-- President B.J. Habibie in his announcement that Indonesia would allow foreign peacekeepers in violence-torn East Timor, Page A1