THE MIDDLE EAST

Israel's Militia Allies Ask For Refuge

JERUSALEM--Israeli-backed Lebanese militiamen asked Israel's Supreme Court yesterday to grant them refuge in Israel if Prime Minister Ehud Barak withdraws his troops from Lebanon as planned next year.

Israeli attorney Zvi Rish, who petitioned the court, said up to 17,000 Lebanese could seek political asylum or even citizenship in Israel for fear they would risk death at the hands of anti-Israel Hezbollah guerrillas if they stay put.

The number includes militiamen in the Israeli-financed South Lebanon Army and their families who are growing more afraid as a withdrawal from an Israeli-occupied security zone in southern Lebanon becomes more likely, Rish said.

"They will be slaughtered," Rish said.

The Iranian-backed Hezbollah, or Party of God, has been fighting a guerrilla war against Israel and the SLA in the zone set up by Israel in 1985 with the declared aim of preventing attacks on Israel's northern communities.

Pope to Visit Holy Land in March

JERUSALEM--Pope John Paul will make his millennium pilgrimage to the Holy Land from March 21 to 26, Israel said.

A Vatican delegation was in Israel last week to prepare for the visit, which would be the first by a pope to the Holy Land since 1964, Israel's government press office said.

An Israeli official said that on one of the days during his pilgrimage, the pope would visit Jesus's birthplace in Bethlehem, which is under Palestinian Authority rule.

Jordanian officials have said they expect the pope to visit Jordan about March 20 before going to Israel.

EUROPE

German Governing Party Threatens Kohl

BERLIN--Germany's governing Social Democrats threatened Helmut Kohl with fines or even "coercive detention" unless the former chancellor discloses the names of campaign donors who handed him large cash contributions.

Kohl admitted Thursday that he violated German laws by accepting nearly $1 million in secret cash donations between 1993 and 1998. Kohl refused to identify the donors, but said the payments were not bribes.

Frank Hofmann, leader of a parliamentary inquiry into the affair, said Kohl was breaking the law.

"It is not enough to tell us he took a vow of secrecy, like some sort of godfather, to protect the donors," Hofmann said in an interview with the newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

The parliamentary inquiry has powers similar to a court and in extreme situations can have someone jailed for refusing to cooperate.

Serbian Opposition Holds Last Protest

BELGRADE--Serbia's stumbling opposition held the last in a series of daily street protests in Belgrade on Saturday but vowed to keep striving for the removal of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

Several hundred people who attended Saturday night's rally booed the decision to call off daily gatherings. But they cheered the former National Bank governor Dragoslav Avramovic, a man envisaged to head a provisional Serbian reform government, when he said, "We will celebrate in the end."

None of several leaders of the Alliance for Change, the faction-ridden opposition group that staged three months of protests over Yugoslavia's economic shambles and international isolation, was available for comment.

The Belgrade independent daily Glas Javnosti quoted Goran Svilanovic, one of the Alliance leaders, as saying the decision to stop the protests was made by majority vote within the Alliance and did not reflect a lack of unity or an internal split.

AFRICA

Zimbabwe Will Seize Land From Whites

HARARE, Zimbabwe--President Robert Mugabe vowed to seize land from whites and not pay them anything for it as the government had previously promised.

Mugabe said Zimbabwe's 12.5 million blacks could not achieve economic goals as long as the 60,000-strong white community controlled large tracts of land and dominated the country's industry and commerce. About 4,000 white farmers, mostly the descendants of British settlers, own about a third of the productive land in Zimbabwe, a British colony until 1980. British settlers "seized our land from us, our ancestors, and no compensation was paid," Mugabe said. "It was taken for nothing."

Since 1980, the state has bought more than 2,000 white farms for resettlement, but the program has been plagued by mismanagement and corruption. Only about 70,000 landless black families have been resettled, less than half the target of 160,000 families.

THE AMERICAS

Eight Hostages Released in Ecuador

QUITO, Ecuador--Seven Canadian oil workers and an American seized more than three months ago in an oil-producing region of Ecuador's Amazon jungle were released, the armed forces said.

The men were found near the town of Lago Agrio, about 200 miles northeast of the Ecuadoran capital Quito, "after they had been released by their captors," a statement from the armed forces joint command said. The statement said they were in good health.

The workers are employed by United Pipeline Systems, an Edmonton, Alberta-based contracting company.

An unidentified armed group snatched the workers and several others Sept. 11 from the jungle where they were working on a pipeline project. The other hostages, a Canadian woman and several Spaniards, were released about a month later.

ASIA

Deadly Clashes Reported in Indonesia

JAKARTA, Indonesia--The latest outbreak of religious and separatist violence in Indonesia has killed at least eight people.

In Maluku province, at least five people were killed yesterday when Christians and Muslims clashed in the provincial capital, Ambon, 1,500 miles east of Jakarta, the official Antara news agency said. Ten others were injured when a mob attacked a civilian vehicle, prompting security forces to open fire.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia's Aceh province, separatist guerrillas ambushed a truckload of paramilitary police, killing at least three officers, a police spokesman said. The attack took place in Geureutee, a mountainous region 40 miles southeast of the provincial capital, Banda Aceh, said Maj. Said Hussein.

But Abu Tausi, a spokesman for the rebel Free Aceh Movement, said at least 20 members of Mobile Brigade, a special, heavily armed police unit, were killed and 10 others were injured in the attack.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Gangs scare the tourists. No tourists means no customers. No customers means no money."

-- Veng Lam, a restaurateur in Macau, on why he hopes China will get rid of gangs there