THE AMERICAS

U.S. Air Force Leaves Panama

PANAMA CITY--The last wave of U.S. airmen and women pulled out of Panama yesterday, when Howard Air Force Base reverted to Panamanian control, closing eight decades of U.S. air power in the Central American country.

"It has been a good partnership, and we leave with pride in our hearts," base commander Col. Roger Corbin said at a ceremony.

Howard's closure marked the end of a U.S. air presence in Panama that began in 1917, when pioneer army fliers unpacked two biplanes at Balboa docks at the Pacific coast entrance to the Panama Canal.

A Dec. 14 ceremony will mark the final withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces from Panama after a 96-year presence, and the reversion of the canal to Panamanian control.

ASIA

Pakistan's Ruler Sets Priorities

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan--Pakistan's new military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, vowed to transform a country of economic collapse and high-level corruption into a prosperous nuclear power. At his first news conference since ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharif three weeks ago, Musharraf said his priorities were economic revival, a crackdown on corruption and an open-ended pledge to restore "real" democratic rule.

Musharraf also said he wanted to settle all his country's disputes with rival India, but warned New Delhi that "hostility will be met with hostility."

Quake Hits Taiwan; None Reported Hurt

TAIPEI--An earthquake off Taiwan's eastern coast shook the island early today, waking people in the capital and knocking objects off shelves.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, seismologists said.

The quake, with a magnitude of between 6 and 6.5, was centered in the Pacific Ocean about 45 miles north-northeast of Taitung, said Waverly Person, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Golden, Colo.

On Sept. 21, a 7.6-magnitude quake killed more than 2,400 people on Taiwan.

Indonesia Opens Talks With Aceh Rebels

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Indonesia has launched negotiations with a separatist group in the province of Aceh in an attempt to bring peace to the region, President Abdurrahman Wahid said.

Wahid said that during a meeting in Jakarta with representatives from the Free Aceh movement on Sunday, he tried to convince them of the government's intention of halting a decade of violence in Aceh.

Fighting in the staunchly Islamic province on the northern tip of Sumatra, 1,250 miles west of Jakarta, has left more than 2,000 people dead and 150,000 displaced.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Kuwaiti Police Subdue Rioters

KUWAIT CITY--Kuwait restored order to an area of the capital hit by the worst rioting in the Persian Gulf country's history and police released scores of Egyptian workers arrested in the disturbances, witnesses said.

Special forces and national guardsmen in armored vehicles sealed off a section of the Kheitan district in Kuwait City late Sunday night, as soldiers equipped with automatic weapons and tear gas combed narrow streets for rioters.

Hundreds of unskilled Egyptian workers, already frustrated by a lack of job security and cash shortages, clashed with police after a scuffle between Egyptian and Bangladeshi expatriates.

EUROPE

Ukrainian Election Will Go Into Runoff

KIEV, Ukraine--President Leonid Kuchma and his left-wing rival, Petro Symonenko, emerged as front-runners in Ukraine's presidential election as foreign observers declared voting had been fair after a dubious campaign.

"Although the campaign was highly questionable, voting in general was orderly and relaxed," Jenny Jones, from the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly, told a news conference.

The Central Election Commission said that with 96 percent of Sunday's vote counted, Kuchma, 61, who vows to press ahead with pro-market reforms, had won 36.36 percent against 22.32 percent for Communist Party leader Symonenko.

But Kuchma did not win the 50 percent of the vote needed for an outright win and so appeared to be heading for a direct clash with Symonenko in a runoff vote in two weeks.

Opposition Leading in Macedonian Vote

SKOPJE, Macedonia--Opposition Social Democrat Tito Petkovski took a strong lead in Macedonia's presidential election returns and analysts said he stood a good chance of winning a Nov. 14 runoff.

But the outcome may turn on whether Prime Minister Ljupco Georgievski's fractious center-right government can heal its rifts and throw its full weight behind the other finalist, Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Trajkovski.

With returns from 74 of the Balkan country's 85 voting districts reported by the State Election Commission, Petkovski had about 33 percent of the vote, well ahead of Trajkovski's 21 percent.

Shevardnadze's Party Wins in Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia--Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's governing Citizens' Union was headed for a majority in parliamentary elections, officials said.

With 90 percent of votes counted, the centrist Citizens' Union had 42.2 percent to 26.5 for the main opposition party Revival on the party list section of the ballot, which awards 150 of the 225 seats at stake.

U.S., Russia Open Nuclear Security Center

SERGIYEV POSAD, Russia--The United States and Russia opened a U.S.-funded nuclear security center to train Russian officers to guard atomic weapons storage sites and use high-tech detection equipment.

Officials hailed the Security Assessment and Training Center in woods northeast of Moscow as a milestone in efforts to reduce the risk of nuclear weapons being stolen and a stark recognition that Russia simply could not afford such a base alone.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"These days you can pretty much say and do what you want."

-- Micko, a comedian who satirizes Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, Page A15