THE AMERICAS

Colombian Admits Killing 140 Children

BOGOTA, Colombia--A 42-year-old man arrested in April has confessed to abducting and killing 140 children over five years, Colombia's chief prosecutor announced yesterday.

The suspect was identified as Luis Eduardo Garavito, who appeared in police mug shots displayed for reporters as a tall, dark-skinned man with mustache.

Garavito was arrested in April after an 18-month investigation into the disappearances of children, in at least 11 Colombian states, whose bodies were found "with throats slit, signs of having been tied up and mutilated," the prosecutor said. Only 114 bodies have been found thus far.

At the time of his arrest in the eastern provincial city of Villavicencio, where he is currently being held, Garavito was living under an assumed name, prosecutors said. He was arrested on suspicion of the attempted rape there in April of a 12-year-old boy.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Date Set for Israel-Palestinian Talks

JERUSALEM--After seven weeks of preparations, the chief Israeli and Palestinian negotiators finally met yesterday and set Nov. 7 as the starting date for talks on a permanent peace treaty. The two-hour meeting between Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo and Israeli diplomat Oded Eran came three days before a Middle East summit in Oslo, Norway.

Israel and the Palestinians have until February to reach a framework agreement and until September to sign a final accord. On the table are contentious issues, such as the final borders of the Palestinian entity, the status of Jerusalem, the future of Jewish settlements and the fate of millions of Palestinian refugees. Aides to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said he may propose frequent one-on-one meetings with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to reach a framework agreement.

Israel Bars Radical From West Bank

JERUSALEM--Israel barred Palestinian radical Nayef Hawatmeh from the West Bank and Gaza Strip after he voiced support for armed struggle against Israeli occupation.

The order reinstated a ban lifted only four days before.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, responding to the former guerrilla chief's endorsement of peace talks and a request from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, had given the green light Monday for Hawatmeh, 63, to return from exile. But he backtracked on the decision after Hawatmeh said in a TV interview that "struggle is legitimate" while Jewish settlers remain on Arab land.

EUROPE

French Official Investigated for Fraud

PARIS--French Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn denied allegations that he was paid $100,000 for a phony consulting job with a health care insurance company. Prosecutors gave investigators the go-ahead to look into whether Strauss-Kahn signed false contracts and papers in connection with the insurance company job, judicial sources said on condition of anonymity.

For more than a year, prosecutors have been looking at whether the National Insurance for French Students illegally funded the Socialist Party. Both the Socialists and the group's former director have denied the accusations. But the new allegations against Strauss-Kahn appeared to be part of that probe against the group.

Ukrainian President Expects Reelection

KIEV, Ukraine--Ukraine's presidential race drew to a close with incumbent Leonid Kuchma confident of winning a second term. Kuchma is clear favorite in Sunday's field of 13 candidates but he is likely to face a runoff against one of his left-wing challengers, who are expected to tap a well of discontent over failed reforms and widespread nostalgia for the Soviet past.

Kuchma, who has presided over cautious reforms since 1994 that have failed to revive the economy, warned against turning back the clock by voting for his main rivals--Communist leader Petro Symonenko and radical left-winger Natalya Vitrenko.

Armenia Begins Mourning Slain Leaders

YEREVAN, Armenia--Black-ribboned flags flew at half-staff across Armenia as the country began three days of mourning for its prime minister and seven other officials killed by nationalist gunmen. Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisian, parliament speaker Karen Demirchian and six others were killed Wednesday by attackers who burst into the parliament chamber.

ASIA

Pakistani Ruler Mum on Elections

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan--Pakistan's military ruler refused to tell a visiting Commonwealth delegation when the country will return to democracy and turned down a request to see the deposed prime minister.

"I can't give any timetable for a certain reason--not for any malevolent intention, but the reason was I have set myself certain objectives and I am targeting those objectives," Gen. Pervez Musharraf said.

Musharraf said he first wants to revive the ailing economy, clean up the country's corrupt politics and create an atmosphere for democracy to flourish before calling elections.

U.S. Investigators Visit No Gun Ri

SEOUL--U.S. investigators visited the scene of an alleged mass killing of South Korean civilians by American soldiers in the early days of the Korean War. The eight U.S. investigators, led by the Army's inspector general, Lt. Gen. Michael Ackerman, interviewed survivors of the alleged attack. Their visit marked the first field investigation of the event in July 1950 at No Gun Ri, a hamlet in central South Korea.

Indonesian Promises to End Corruption

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Indonesia's new president inaugurated his cabinet with a firm warning that the corruption that has infested the country for decades will no longer be tolerated. President Abdurrahman Wahid took office last week, raising hopes that he can continue Indonesia's transition to democracy after more than 30 years of autocratic rule capped by two years of political instability, economic crisis and civil unrest.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"They said we were a cult. We needed to show them we aren't."

-- Qu Dehong, a Falun Gong member who was among those in Beijing protesting the Chinese government's ban on the spiritual movement.