THE MIDDLE EAST

Israelis Releasing 151 Palestinians

ASHKELON, Israel--Buses pulled away from an Israeli jail at daybreak today, signaling the start of the release of 151 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails, part of an interim peace accord signed Sept. 4.

The prisoners will be driven to five points in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and released. Israeli officials said 83 will be taken to Gaza, including 37 citizens of Arab countries, jailed for attacking Israelis or for crossing the border illegally.

Israel freed a first group of 199 prisoners on Sept. 9. The second release was held up for a week by a disagreement over which prisoners were to be freed.

U.S. Warplanes Bomb Iraqi Targets

ANKARA, Turkey--U.S. jets patrolling the no-fly zone over northern Iraq bombed installations after being targeted by Iraqi missiles, the U.S. military said.

The planes bombed a number of Iraqi targets near the city of Mosul, the Germany-based U.S. European Command said in a statement, without specifying what kind of installations had been targeted. Mosul is 250 miles north of Baghdad.

Palestinian Talk Show Host Released

JERUSALEM--A Palestinian talk show host who discussed sensitive political topics on the air has been released from detention without charges.

Maher Dasouki said he was released without charges Oct. 4 after three weeks in a Palestinian jail. His show, based in Ramallah, is aired twice a week on the private Al-Nasr TV station.

THE AMERICAS

Hurricane Irene Lashes Western Cuba

HAVANA--Hurricane Irene dumped rain across western Cuba on Thursday, forcing at least 130,000 people to evacuate. In Havana, there were scattered reports of damage to buildings in the old quarter and at least one death.

After thrashing its way across the island, the storm began its drive toward the Florida Keys and South Florida and is expected to arrive today.

The storm threatens coastal and inland flooding over at least the lower third of the Florida peninsula--most of which is under a hurricane warning. Concern over Irene's 75 mph winds and torrential rain drove tourists from Key West and snarled traffic in South Florida. Forecasters said areas as far north as Tampa Bay could be flooded.

Inmates Flee Caracas Jail Through Tunnel

CARACAS, Venezuela--Officials searched for some 35 inmates who escaped from a prison in downtown Caracas by fleeing through a 30-foot tunnel they dug from one of the jail's workshops.

Officials said the breakout Wednesday was one of the largest in the South American country in years. Venezuela's prisons are considered to be among the most violent in the world.

U.N. Selects Security Council Members

UNITED NATIONS--The U.N. General Assembly selected five new members for non-permanent seats on the Security Council on Thursday, giving Mali, Tunisia, Jamaica, Bangladesh and Ukraine two-year terms on the most powerful U.N. decision-making body.

The five will replace Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia, whose terms expire Dec. 31.

EUROPE

Yugoslav Opposition Lists Conditions

BELGRADE--Yugoslavia's divided opposition groups listed the conditions they want observed in elections they hope will drive President Slobodan Milosevic from power.

A document signed by seven opposition groups and parties covered conditions for a proportional voting system, party financing, the presence of domestic and foreign observers and free media. The opposition suggested in a statement to the European Union earlier this week that elections be held by early 2000.

Rallying Chechens Vow to Fight

GROZNY, Russia--As Russian bombs rumbled in the distance, thousands of Chechens rallied in the streets of Grozny, their capital, vowing to fight Russia's offensive.

The sound of explosions and roar of jets inflamed the crowds protesting the Russian campaign, which targets Islamic militants in the breakaway region but has sent thousands of civilians fleeing.

Gunmen Free 4 Kidnapped U.N. Workers

TBILISI, Georgia--Four United Nations workers kidnapped by gunmen in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia were freed and Georgian officials said they were confident three people still being held would be released soon.

Georgia's independent Rustavi-2 television channel showed the released hostages looking healthy, but tired. They declined all comment on their ordeal.

ASIA

Japanese Plan to Invest in Venezuela

TOKYO--Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's defense of his radical reforms at home appeared to find a receptive ear in Tokyo.

Japanese companies Kobe Steel and Marubeni, in conjunction with Venezuela's state-run steel company, agreed to invest up to $300 million in a new metals plant in southern Venezuela. Japan also said it would study the possibility of importing the South American nation's petroleum for the first time.

Philippine Rape Sentences Commuted

MANILA--President Joseph Estrada commuted the death sentences of three men convicted of raping and killing a teacher.

Estrada approved the recommendation of a special committee to reduce the sentences of Jurry Andal, his brother, Ricardo, and Edwin Mendoza to life in prison, presidential spokesman Jerry Barican said. The men were convicted in the 1994 rape and stabbing death of a teacher, Nancy Siscar, in Batangas province south of Manila.

AFRICA

Abacha Son, Aides Face Murder Charges

LAGOS, Nigeria--A son and security aides of late Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha were charged with the murder of Kudirat Abiola, wife of the late millionaire opposition politician Moshood Abiola.

Mohammed Abacha, 32, was charged along with his father's personal security chief, Major Hamza Mustapha, and four other former security operatives before a Lagos magistrate.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We, as a big nation, must accept and respect the result of the ballot."

-- Indonesian President B.J. Habibie,

on the Aug. 30 independence referendum in East Timor --Page 23