EUROPE

Kohl Admits Mistakes, Rejects Charges

BERLIN--Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl broke two weeks of silence, saying he made mistakes by taking secret campaign donations.

But he rejected charges he had accepted bribes during his 16 years as chancellor and said in an interview on German television it was "intolerable" that he was being accused of influence peddling.

Kohl admitted two weeks ago he set up secret bank accounts to fund unspecified campaign activities of his political party, the Christian Democratic Union, but he had declined to answer questions about the scope, origin or purpose of the undeclared funds.

Nazi Labor Agreement Hits Snag

BERLIN--Last-minute wrangles over cash plagued a landmark agreement by Germany to compensate Nazi-era slave workers on the eve of its official signing.

Germany's state governments resisted calls by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder that they should pay into the $5.1 billion compensation fund proposed for up to 2.3 million surviving forced laborers and Nazi slaves around the world.

Victims' lawyers said they were unhappy with arrangements being made to release the cash and warned there was still no agreement on how the cash would be divided up.

Romanian Nominates Prime Minister

BUCHAREST, Romania--Romanian President Emil Constantinescu nominated Central Bank Gov. Mugur Isarescu as prime minister-designate in a bid to end a political upheaval and boost the country's chances of EU integration.

Constantinescu said that he had proposed Isarescu, 50 and a technocrat, to replace Radu Vasile, who was dismissed this week. Isarescu has until Monday to present a coherent reform program to parliament.

U.S. Soldier Killed by Kosovo Land Mine

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia--A U.S. soldier was killed when his vehicle struck a land mine in eastern Kosovo, the NATO-led peacekeeping force said. Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon identified the soldier as Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Suponcic, 26, of Jersey Shore, Pa. The explosion occurred in the area of Kosovska Kamenica, the base for most U.S. troops in Kosovo.

Eighteen members of the Kosovo peacekeeping force have been killed since the mission began, a NATO official said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Jordan Says Tourists Were Targeted

AMMAN, Jordan--Thirteen men detained on terrorist charges and suspected of links to exiled Saudi militant Osama bin Laden were planning attacks on Jordanian tourist sites during year-end Christian celebrations, officials said.

Jordanian sources close to the investigation said the group--which included 11 Jordanians, one Iraqi and one Algerian--was well-financed and had also planned to target Americans and Israelis.

ASIA

Police Raid Japanese Nuclear Firm

TOKYO--Police raided the headquarters of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. as part of a criminal investigation into the cause of Japan's worst-ever nuclear accident.

Three workers were severely injured Sept. 30 when they set off an uncontrolled nuclear reaction at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant operated by JCO Co., which is owned by Sumitomo Metal Mining.

An investigation found that the workers at the plant in Tokaimura, 70 miles northeast of Tokyo, violated safety procedures by mixing uranium in buckets to get the job done quickly. JCO executives could face criminal charges of professional negligence.

Sri Lankan Candidate Offers Talks

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--Sri Lanka's main opposition presidential candidate predicted a surge in violence as the country goes to the polls Tuesday, and offered to hold talks with President Chandrika Kumaratunga to prevent clashes.

"I am ready to talk to you [Kumaratunga] to ensure the election is free and fair," said Ranil Wickremesinghe of the United National Party. There was no immediate government response to the offer.

Since the elections were announced last month, seven deaths and 923 poll-related incidents of violence have been reported. Kumaratunga, who took office in 1994 on a pledge to bring peace to Sri Lanka, has proposed constitutional reforms to increase regional power in order to meet part of the Tamil Tigers' demand for a separate homeland, and to stop the civil war.

Indonesia Backs Off Aceh Referendum

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Indonesia's parliament backed away from allowing any referendum on independence for the troubled Aceh province, saying it needed to hold further talks.

Separatists are demanding a referendum on independence for the Sumatran region and a special parliamentary committee earlier recommended holding a vote. However, since the Aug. 30 independence vote in East Timor, many Indonesians are more fearful that independence for Aceh will trigger the break up of their country.

The parliament's decision, which is non-binding, now goes to President Abdurrahman Wahid for consideration. Wahid has suggested a vote on the implementation of Islamic law should be held in Aceh, but many groups in the province say they will reject any referendum that does not include the option of independence.

FOR THE RECORD

* BOGOTA, Colombia--Ultra-right gunmen tortured and killed at least 12 people in San Carlos in attacks that came after a week of heavy fighting between Marxist rebels and the army, authorities said.

* TOKYO--Historic foes Japan and North Korea will meet in Beijing to discuss humanitarian issues early next week in a step toward establishing diplomatic relations, said Japan's top government spokesman.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"What has he done? When the problem of Chechyna arose, he appeared on the scene. Our hero!"

Volodya Zapunny, 18, a first-time voter, talking about Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -- Page A1