Chechen Forces Retreat From Key Village

GROZNY, Russia--Chechen officials said yesterday their forces had retreated from a key village west of Grozny, the capital, as the locus of fighting with Russian forces moved south of the strategic Terek River. The Russian commander leading the Chechen campaign said up to 300 rebels were surrounded in the village, that the army's initial aim of securing three northern districts from the region's separatist leadership had been largely achieved, and that Russian troops were now able to move about at will.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the conflict was going well and that public opinion supported it.

EU May Invite Six More Countries to Join

BRUSSELS--The European Commission recommended inviting six more countries to start talks on joining the European Union and suggested Turkey become a candidate without starting formal negotiations. The EU executive's proposals, which will be considered at an EU summit in Helsinki in December, would double the number of countries holding formal membership talks and put the 15-member bloc on course to nearly double its membership.

The commission recommended that Slovakia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania and Malta should start full membership talks in 2000. Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia and Cyprus have been holding full negotiations since March 1998. The commission said Turkey should be considered a candidate--a statement that caused unease in Greece and Cyprus--but that there was "no question" of opening negotiations now.

Gunmen Abduct U.N. Workers in Georgia

SUKHUMI, Georgia--Gunman seized six United Nations military observers and their translator as they were delivering aid in Georgia's breakaway territory of Abkhazia.

State Security Minister Vakhtang Kutateladze was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the kidnappers are seeking $200,000 ransom. Negotiators are in radio contact with the abductors.

Protesters Attacked in Yugoslavia

BELGRADE--Eight anti-government protesters were hurt when they were attacked by a group of young men armed with sticks on the 23rd day of opposition rallies in Belgrade, local media said. About 100 protesters had gathered outside a hotel when the attack occurred. One opposition leader, Goran Svilanovic of the Civic Alliance for Serbia, accused authorities of "paying criminals to beat people," the independent Beta news agency said.


U.N.: No Proof of Mass Murder in E. Timor

DILI, East Timor--The United Nations said it had uncovered no evidence to support allegations that pro-Indonesian militias engaged in mass murder in East Timor. "We don't believe that people in their thousands have been killed and their bodies buried or thrown in the sea," said Michel Barton, a U.N. relief official. Militia groups rampaged through East Timor last month after the population voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence in a U.N.-supervised referendum.

Tibetan Protester Beaten by Police Dies

BEIJING--A Tibetan carpenter who lowered China's flag in Tibet's capital in protest against Chinese rule has died in the hospital after police beat him during his arrest, a human rights group reported. Tashi Tsering died during the first week of October, having never left the hospital in the more than five weeks since his protest and arrest in Lhasa, the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy said.

Two Thai Elephants Hurt by Land Mines

BANGKOK--Two more elephants have stepped on land mines along Thailand's border with Myanmar, fast becoming one of the world's most dangerous areas for the beasts. Animal authorities reported the injuries nearly seven weeks after veterinarians amputated the left front foot of logging elephant Motola after it had been shredded in a mine blast.

Though Thailand has outlawed anti-personnel land mines and begun detonating those that exist, some of its border areas with Myanmar and Cambodia are still strewn with mines.


Israel Agrees to Free Jailed Palestinians

GAZA CITY--Israel will release 151 Palestinian prisoners, including several Islamic militants, on Friday after resolving a dispute over which inmates are to go free, a Palestinian cabinet minister said. The prisoners issue has been one of the most emotional aspects of Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking and the agreement was another sign of closer cooperation between the two sides since Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak took office in July. Israel freed a first batch of 199 prisoners on Sept. 9.


British Envoy in Chile Quits After Threats

SANTIAGO, Chile--Britain's honorary consul in the Chilean port city of Valparaiso resigned after death threats against him over Britain's arrest of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former Chilean president. Iain Hardy stepped down as consul in Valparaiso, Pinochet's birthplace 75 miles west of Santiago, as the government said it would clamp down on any violence from a shadowy ultra-right-wing group that supports the former ruler on Saturday's first anniversary of his arrest.

Pinochet, 83, was arrested in London last Oct. 16 at the request of a Spanish judge who wants him tried on charges of torture in the latter years of his 1973-1990 rule.

Colombian Rebels Free American

BOGOTA--A New York man kidnapped by Marxist rebels who stormed a church in Colombia four months ago was freed, and he said he was in good health even though he lost a lot of weight.

Roy Howard Saykay, 56, of Long Island, was seized May 30 along with some 160 other worshipers during a Roman Catholic Mass in Cali, Colombia's second-largest city.

In a brief interview with local radio, Saykay, a longtime resident of Cali, where he runs an auto parts business, said he had lost 45 pounds while in captivity but was fine otherwise. It was not immediately clear if a ransom had been paid for his release. About 30 people abducted at the church are still being held.


"We're completely cut off. I'm asking for sugar, blankets and oil. [The government is] sending water, water, water. I'm drowning in water."

-- Humberto Olarte Romero, town president of Jalpan, in the flood-ravaged Mexican state of Puebla. -- Page A18