ASIA

Falun Gong Denounces Chinese Police

BEIJING--Nearly 30 members of the banned Falun Gong spiritual movement spoke out yesterday at an extraordinary news conference organized in secrecy, denouncing torture at the hands of Chinese police and promising continued defiance.

One member displayed wrists bruised by manacles; another told how police burned her face with an electric baton; an 11-year-old said he was expelled from school for his beliefs.

China's Communist Party, meanwhile, promised it will show no mercy to what it called "the devil cult." Police arrested at least 20 Falun Gong members at Tiananmen Square, pushing them into blue-and-white minibuses and driving away--the same routine they have followed every day this week.

U.S. Army Investigators Visit South Korea

SEOUL--A U.S. Army investigative team arrived in South Korea to consult with officials and meet survivors of an alleged assault on civilians by American soldiers during the Korean War.

The eight U.S. investigators, headed by the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Michael Ackerman, will meet with their South Korean counterparts today.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Yemeni Kidnappers Release 3 Americans

SANAA, Yemen--Three Americans who had been held hostage for two days by Yemeni tribesmen were released after intense negotiations between authorities and the kidnappers.

Marta R. Colburn and her parents, Don and Gladys Colburn, of Portland, Ore., arrived back in the capital, Sanaa, from the northern province of Marib, where they were kidnapped Tuesday.

Israel Deports 20 Foreigners JERUSALEM--In its third operation against Christian doomsday groups in a year, Israel began deporting 20 foreigners suspected of planning violent acts in the year 2000.

With Christian pilgrims heading to Israel for the celebration of the birth of Jesus, Israeli police have been on alert for religious fanatics who believe they can facilitate the second coming of Christ through violent acts or mass suicide. A special police unit has been established to deal with the threat.

THE AMERICAS

Cuba Complains About U.S. Diplomats

HAVANA--Cuba condemned U.S. diplomats in Havana for seeking to "torpedo" and "sabotage" Illinois Gov. George Ryan's landmark trip this week by arranging for him to meet dissidents opposed to President Fidel Castro.

But Havana had warm words for Ryan, repeatedly praising the Republican politician's decision to make the first visit to the Communist-run island by a sitting U.S. governor since Castro's 1959 revolution.

EUROPE

Iranian President Visits Paris

PARIS--President Mohammed Khatemi, the first leader of Iran's Islamic republic to visit France, set a decidedly secular tone by visiting the Paris Pantheon and honoring scientists Pierre and Marie Curie, who are buried there.

Dressed in blue and black clerical robes, Khatemi placed two bouquets at the couple's tomb in the deconsecrated Latin Quarter church, which is now a nonreligious mausoleum dedicated to heroes of the French Republic.

Protestant Militants Disrupt Peace TalksBELFAST--Northern Ireland's deeply divided Catholics and Protestants struggled to revive the province's peace accord in talks marred by pro-British Protestant militants. David Trimble, the province's chief Protestant leader, said talks led by former U.S. senator George Mitchell had not yet yielded a breakthrough to revive the stalled Good Friday accord of 1998.

Yugoslav Printing Company Fined BELGRADE--In a continuing crackdown on free speech in Yugoslavia, authorities have fined a printing company and its top executive for publishing leaflets opposing President Slobodan Milosevic, the Belgrade daily Glas reported.

ABC Grafika, which publishes most of the independent papers in Yugoslavia, was fined $12,500 for printing a daily leaflet called Promene (Changes) because it was not officially registered with authorities.

London Cabbies Want Extra on Dec. 31

LONDON--The drivers of London's black taxicabs said they will refuse to work on New Year's Eve unless they are allowed to charge an extra $40 on every fare.

The government, which licenses the cabs and sets fares, is considering the proposal. A government spokesman said a decision is expected shortly. "If they don't get the right price for the job, then they won't work," said Bob Oddy, of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association. "It has to be worth their while to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime night."

AFRICA

S. Africa Proposes Ban on Discrimination

CAPE TOWN, South Africa--More than five years after the collapse of apartheid, the government proposed a bill outlawing discrimination, saying racism is still rife in South Africa.

"Oppression and the dispossession of the majority of South African people was entrenched and sustained through the law," Justice Minister Penuell Maduna said. "Although most of these laws have been repealed, the social consequences still remain with us and continue to prevail in all spheres of life in this country."

Burundi Troops Kill 20 Rebels BUJUMBURA, Burundi--Burundi government troops killed 20 ethnic Hutu rebels in an ambush near the capital late Wednesday, the army said. The military spokesman, Col. Longin Minani, said the soldiers found a rebel hideout near Ruziba, just south of Bujumbura, a focus of rebel activity in recent months.

Liberian General Dies in Auto Wreck

MONROVIA, Liberia--Liberia's armed forces chief, Lt. Gen. Prince Johnson, died in hospital in Ivory Coast where he had been admitted after a car accident, a Liberian government statement said.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Our fair country has been going to pieces in recent years."

-- Armenian gunmen, who stormed parliament and killed the prime minister and seven others.