THE AMERICAS

26 Die in Plane Crash in Guatemala

GUATEMALA CITY--A Cuban airlines charter jet skidded off a rain-slicked runway after landing yesterday and crashed into a working-class neighborhood. At least 26 people were killed, nine of them on the ground, authorities said, calling it one of the worst aviation accidents in Guatemala's history.

All of the victims on the ground were apparently residents of the low-income La Libertad neighborhood, located less than 100 feet from the end of the runway. About 10 shacks in the neighborhood were damaged or destroyed.

The Cubana de Aviacion DC-10 jet was carrying 314 people, including 18 crew when it crashed. Most of the passengers were Guatemalan medical students who were returning home for Christmas.

Authorities were trying to determine if the pilot, who was killed, overshot the runway, said air traffic director Mario Grajeda.

Four years ago, a DC-8 cargo plane skidded off the end of the same runway, killing eight neighborhood residents.

ASIA

President of Sri Lanka Reelected

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--With almost all the votes counted, President Chandrika Kumaratunga appeared today to have won a second term as Sri Lanka's president. But monitoring groups said the election was flawed by flagrant violations.

Kumaratunga, who survived an assassination attempt on the weekend, won 51.12 percent of the vote. Her nearest challenger, Ranil Wickremesinghe, won 42.7 percent, the Election Commission announced.

A record voter turnout was reported, despite violence in the center of the country, including a bomb explosion that killed at least five people. Fifty thousand police officers manned the 9,000 polling booths.

The result denied Kumaratunga the sweeping mandate she sought when she called the election 11 months earlier than scheduled, and was far less than the landslide 62 percent she won in 1994.

Many voters apparently were disappointed that she had failed to fulfill her promise to end the war with the Tamil Tiger separatists, which has instead grown progressively more fierce.

Japanese Governor Faces Charges

TOKYO--A Japanese governor accused of molesting a university student was charged yesterday with indecent assault--a move praised by women as an important step in the country's fledgling battle against sexual harassment.

Osaka Gov. Knock Yokoyama, a former stand-up comedian who won a landslide reelection in April, tendered his resignation hours before his indictment. He was not arrested.

Nuclear Worker Dies in Japan

TOKYO--More than two months after absorbing a massive dose of radiation, a worker injured in Japan's worst nuclear accident died. He was the country's first person to die from radiation exposure caused by an accident at a nuclear facility.

Hisashi Ouchi, 35, had been in critical condition since the Sept. 30 accident at a uranium reprocessing plant. He died after suffering various symptoms of radiation sickness, Tokyo University Hospital spokesman Hisao Yanagisawa said.

North Korea and Japan Conduct Talks

BEIJING--Japanese and North Korean officials began a second day of talks today aimed at repairing diplomatic ties, following an agreement by the countries' Red Cross delegates on food aid for North Korea and other issues.

The government negotiations, which Japan halted 15 months ago after North Korea test-fired a rocket over its territory, were restarted after the United States and South Korea persuaded North Korea to stop testing missiles.

EUROPE

France Jails Tanker Captain

LORIENT, France--Investigators jailed the captain of the sunken tanker Erika yesterday, while navy vessels tried to stem an oil slick that is threatening France's western coast.

Transport Minister Jean-Claude Gayssot said it was too soon to talk of an imminent risk to the Atlantic coastline from the spill of heavy fuel oil, but Environment Minister Dominique Voynet said the oil would eventually wash up on the beaches.

A judge investigating the ship's breakup and sinking in stormy seas early Sunday ordered the Erika's Indian captain, Krun Mathur, into detention in Paris and placed him under official investigation on grounds of risking lives and maritime pollution.

Croatians to Choose a New President

ZAGREB, Croatia--Croatians will choose a new president Jan. 24 to replace the late Franjo Tudjman, officials said.

Tudjman, who had led Croatia since its 1991 independence from Yugoslavia, died on Dec. 10, two years before his term ended. Tudjman failed to groom a successor despite widespread speculation over the last three years that he was suffering from terminal stomach cancer.

Russia Sends Y2K Missile Team to U.S.

MOSCOW--Russian missile specialists left for the United States as part of a millennium operation to ensure none of the two countries' 4,400 nuclear missiles are fired in error.

Russian specialists will join U.S. experts at a center in Colorado to watch for any false warnings of missile attacks sparked by the Y2K computer bug, the Russian Tass news agency said.

AFRICA

Zimbabwe to Impose Price Controls

HARARE, Zimbabwe--President Robert Mugabe plans to impose price controls on essential foods, despite saying that the worst of Zimbabwe's economic crisis is over.

"The challenges we face are by no means insurmountable if there is unity of purpose," Mugabe told lawmakers in his annual state of the nation address. "I am convinced we have gone past the worst patch."

But, embracing policies his government had abandoned seven years ago for free-market reforms, Mugabe told a South African newspaper his government will reintroduce price controls.

In an interview with The Star of Johannesburg, Mugabe said prices of corn meal, bread and beef will be fixed by the state to cushion the poor from further hardships.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"First they bomb us out of our homes, then say we will starve if we don't go back. This is Russia."

-- Asmart Aliyev, a Chechen refugee --Page A25