Fighting Rages Around Grozny

GROZNY, Russia--Russia bombed around the Chechen capital, Grozny, yesterday and fighting raged on several fronts in the city's suburbs. Civilians were unable to leave despite Russian promises to renew efforts to get residents out, and Russian generals reportedly pressed rebels to surrender.

A top Russian general said that his side has held a series of meetings with rebel leaders and passed on the Russian government's demand that they surrender.

Chechen rebels said they repulsed a Russian assault on a strategic hill south of the capital, but the NTV television network reported that Russian forces had captured Chernorechye, a district in the southern part of the city. If confirmed, this would be the first time Russians had control of part of Grozny since they were expelled from the city in 1996.

Meanwhile, the West kept up pressure on Russia to halt its assault, with European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten saying the EU was drawing up recommendations for action in response to the nearly four-month military campaign.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Russia's tactics would not be dictated from abroad. He said that about 90 percent of lowland Chechnya was under Russian control and that casualties among civilians "could be counted on one's fingers."

Turkey to End Emergency Rule

ISTANBUL--Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said he hoped emergency rule imposed on five largely Kurdish provinces in the southeast could soon be lifted.

Emergency law allows provincial governors to impose curfews, call in soldiers to suppress illegal demonstrations, ban rallies and issue arrest warrants.

"Turkish armed forces have brought an important degree of quiet," Ecevit was quoted as saying by the semi-official Anatolian News Agency. "I hope the emergency rule can be lifted soon." The decision to extend or lift emergency rule is made by parliament upon recommendation of the military-dominated National Security Council.

The number of provinces under emergency rule has progressively decreased over the past years after being imposed in 13 provinces in 1987 to counter Kurdish rebels who have been waging a war for autonomy. Fighting has eased since August, when the rebels announced a unilateral cease-fire and their withdrawal from Turkey.


China's Jiang Welcomes Macau Handover

BEIJING--Chinese President Jiang Zemin said today's planned handover of Macau reflected China's growing economic and political might and would pave the way for Taiwan's reunification with the mainland, the official New China News Agency reported.

"The ever-growing prosperity and the rise of the international status of China are the fundamental reason for the return of Hong Kong and Macau," Jiang said, before traveling to Macau for the handover.

Macau police seized about 40 followers of the Falun Gong spiritual movement banned by China as they performed meditative exercises in public on Sunday, the last day of Portuguese rule.

The transition of the tiny gambling haven under a "one country, two systems" formula, also used for Hong Kong's return to Chinese rule in 1997, marked "another important step on the road of China's full reunification," Jiang said.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway province and has wooed the island to reunify on the same terms as Hong Kong and Macau. Under these terms, Beijing promised to let both territories keep their capitalist ways under the umbrella of Communist China. Taiwan, far bigger and more populous than Hong Kong or Macau, has rejected the overture, saying reunification would be possible only if China embraced Western-style democracy.

U.S. and N. Korea Talks Founder

BERLIN--U.S. and North Korean negotiators failed to agree yesterday on new efforts to recover remains of American soldiers killed in the Korean War.

Government negotiators met for three days in Berlin to try to schedule recovery operations for next year, but talks foundered because North Korea made humanitarian aid a condition, according to a statement from the U.S. negotiators.

U.S. teams have recovered remains believed to be those of 42 American servicemen in North Korea over the past four years. Three of the soldiers have been identified and returned to their families for U.S. burial.

About 8,200 U.S. servicemen are still listed as missing from the 1950-53 Korean War.


Bermuda Ends Capital Punishment

HAMILTON, Bermuda--Under pressure from Britain to end capital punishment, the Bermudan House of Assembly voted to abolish hanging and flogging in the British territory.

The House voted 19-13 to abolish the death penalty, last used in 1977 when two men were hanged for murdering the governor. The executions sparked days of rioting.

The governing party pushed through the controversial proposal, required by Britain under its White Paper on relations with its overseas territories, despite an opposition party poll indicating that two-thirds of Bermudans support the death penalty.


"Our country has been destroyed, and we have been isolated by the world. If everyone keeps condemning us instead of helping us, how can we begin to rebuild?"

--Abbas Stanikzai, Afghanistan's deputy minister of public health

CAPTION: Chechen refugees talk to local officials about their living conditions at a refugee camp on the border between Chechnya and Ingushetia.