'Black Tide' Fears Raised in France

QUIMPER, France--An oil spill from the Maltese-registered tanker Erika that split in two over the weekend hugged France's Atlantic coast for a second day, raising fears of a "black tide" sweeping the beaches and oyster beds of western France.

High winds and rough seas again prevented efforts to clean up the estimated 3 million gallons of heavy oil floating southwest of the Brittany island of Belle Ile.

Britain to Permit Gays in Military

LONDON--Britain will lift its ban on gays serving in the military next year, government officials said. The government has been pressured to act after the European Court of Human Rights ruled in September that four British homosexuals were wrongly dismissed from the armed forces after they admitted their sexual orientation to investigators.

In the United States, President Clinton introduced in 1993 a controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy. But Clinton has recently said that policy has not worked as he intended.

Political Turmoil Mounts in Romania

BUCHAREST, Romania--Romania sank deeper into political crisis when Prime Minister Radu Vasile refused to quit and the leftist opposition accused the president of violating the constitution by firing him. It said it would walk out of Parliament and called for new elections.

Vasile, dismissed by President Emil Constantinescu earlier in the day after a revolt by his Christian Democrat party, insisted he was still prime minister.


U.S. Warnings Nonsense, Taliban Says

KABUL, Afghanistan--U.S. warnings that terrorists plan to attack Americans during the holidays are nothing but propaganda aimed at justifying sanctions against Afghanistan, the governing Taliban militia said.

The arrests of a dozen individuals who allegedly were planning an anti-American terrorist attack to coincide with New Year's celebrations prompted the warning, U.S. officials say. At least some of those detained have links with suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said late Monday.

S.Korean Newspaper Owner Fined

SEOUL--A prominent newspaper owner who was convicted of tax evasion was released from prison after receiving a suspended three-year jail sentence.

A Seoul criminal court also ordered Hong Seok-hyun, owner of JoongAng Ilbo, to pay a fine of $3.2 million, the same amount of money he was charged with evading in taxes.

Hong was arrested in October on charges of evading inheritance and other taxes between 1994 and 1998. Hong's newspaper was not involved in the tax evasion. The charges stem from the Bokwang Group, in which Hong is the largest stockholder. The company publishes Newsweek magazine in South Korea. Newsweek is owned by The Washington Post Co.


Palestinian Condemns Israeli Attack

BEIT AWA, West Bank--The attack by Israeli troops on two Islamic militants was a cold-blooded slaying, Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said, condemning the incident that could spawn revenge attacks and jeopardize the peace process.

The two fugitives were shot dead Monday night during an Israeli army raid of their hideout. In a rare admission, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Efraim Sneh said one of the men, Iyyad Batat, had been marked for death after killing an undercover Israeli border policeman in a roadside ambush in January.


S. African Security Officers Get Amnesty

JOHANNESBURG--South Africa's truth and reconciliation commission granted amnesty to death squad commander Eugene de Kock, former law and order minister Adriaan Vlok and 21 former security officers for the 1987 bombing of a trade union headquarters. No one died in the blast.

Commission spokesman Nhlanhla Mbatha said the amnesty was granted because the bombing was carried out for political reasons. It came at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle in the 1980s when the white National Party government used Draconian force to quell black unrest.

Man Arrested in Algerian Killing

ALGIERS--Algeria said it has arrested the alleged killer of a top Islamic fundamentalist leader. Fouad Boulemia, 26, who was arrested late Monday in Algiers, had the murder weapon in his possession, the Interior Ministry said. It remained unclear whether the Nov. 22 killing of Abdelkader Hachani was the work of a single person or ordered by others.


School Records Released on Cuban Boy

HAVANA--The 6-year-old Cuban boy at the center of an international custody dispute is a "disciplined, affable, hard-working" boy with parents who maintained an interest in his grades and homework, according to school records released.

Also made available were documents detailing how Elian Gonzalez's parents took him to a march commemorating revolutionary hero Camilo Cienfuegos and a day-care center connected to a Communist Party youth group, the Young Pioneers--a group to which almost all Cuban children belong.

The boy's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez, hopes the records--together with birth and marriage certificates, and affidavits from friends and neighbors--will to persuade the U.S. government to return Elian, who is now staying with relatives in Miami.

Cocaine Lab Found in Ciudad Juarez

MEXICO CITY--FBI agents and Mexican police found a cocaine lab at one of four sites in northern Mexico where investigators are digging for the remains of people believed to have been killed by the powerful Juarez drug cartel, officials said.

The Mexican attorney general's office said that investigators found hundreds of gallons of chemicals used to process cocaine, gun shells and a large quantity of canned food.

Sixty-five FBI forensics experts and 600 Mexican officials are digging at four sites near the border city of Ciudad Juarez across the border from El Paso.


"It is yours."

-- Jimmy Carter, former U.S. president, during the handover of the Panama Canal -- Page A1