AFRICA

Soldiers Rampage in Ivory Coast

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast--Mutinous soldiers, some of them driving hijacked cars and taxis, controlled parts of Ivory Cost's commercial capital Abidjan last night after taking to the streets in a dispute over pay.

The soldiers fired into the air, hijacked cars and looted or let members of the public loot shops and at least one supermarket. Sources said security forces had orders not to take on the mutineers but to let the protest run out of steam.

One source described the mutineers as peacekeepers who had returned from the Central African Republic--scene of three army pay mutinies in 1996 and 1997--and were demanding promised bonuses. Officials said Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan was to hold an emergency meeting with the defense, interior and security ministers and with armed forces commanders.

Ivory Coast has long been considered a model of West African stability. But political and social turmoil has risen steadily ahead of presidential elections scheduled for October.

EUROPE

Russia Investigating Alleged Massacre

GROZNY, Russia--As heavy artillery battered the Chechen capital, military prosecutors said they were investigating accusations that Russian soldiers went on a rampage in a village, killing 23 civilians.

The Defense Ministry has denied that soldiers massacred civilians earlier this month in Alkhan-Yurt, on the edge of the Chechen capital. But the military prosecutor's office confirmed that it had launched a criminal investigation shortly after the first reports of the incident.

The growing controversy over the alleged killings came as Russian leaders predicted the war would soon be over. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said most of Chechnya was under Russian control, and Gen. Viktor Kazantsev predicted victory within two or three weeks.

N. Ireland Prisoners Go Home for Holidays

BELFAST--All 139 convicts in Northern Ireland's major anti-terrorist prison went home for the holidays, a goodwill gesture from the British government that marked another milestone in peacemaking efforts here.

Prison guards escorted separate groups of prisoners from the Irish Republican Army and the province's major outlawed pro-British groups, the Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force, to the main entrance of the Maze Prison, where they were greeted by relatives.

Britain Orders Checks on Korean Air

LONDON--Alarmed by Korean Air's second fatal accident this year, Britain ordered closer preflight checks, and officials in Seoul said the carrier could lose routes if found responsible for the crash of a 747 freighter at Stansted Airport.

The Korean Air jet, with four crew members on board, crashed in flames moments after takeoff Wednesday night, scattering wreckage across a square mile area extending from the end of the runway into woods near a village. All four crew members were feared dead, but no one on the ground was hurt.

Korean Air has been plagued by a series of disasters at home and abroad in the past 16 years in which more than 750 people have died.

ASIA

Ships Join Search for Ferry Passengers

SANTA FE, Philippines--Vessels of shipping companies, the coast guard and local fishermen joined the search for 38 people missing after a ferry carrying more than 650 passengers and crew sank off the central Philippines.

At least nine people were killed in the predawn accident. The others were pulled from the rough seas near Bantayan island off the northern tip of Cebu island, about 300 miles southeast of Manila.

Japanese Princess Keeps Public Guessing

TOKYO--Japanese Crown Princess Masako made her first public appearance since a media frenzy was touched off by reports that she may be pregnant with a long-awaited heir to the world's oldest monarchy.

But Japanese craving news of a possible heir were left in the dark. Smiling but silent, Masako waved to throngs of flag-waving Japanese shouting, "May the emperor live a thousand years" during a royal appearance at the Imperial Palace to mark Emperor Akihito's 66th birthday, a national holiday in Japan.

U.S. Heliport Accepted in Okinawa

TOKYO--A city council in Okinawa voted to accept a U.S. heliport to be relocated from another part of the island, Japan's Kyodo News agency reported. After an all-night session, the Nago city council voted 17-10 to build a heliport to replace part of Futenma Air Base, which is being closed under a U.S.-Japan accord, Kyodo said.

FOR THE RECORD

* ROME--Italian Premier Massimo D'Alema won a vote of confidence in the lower house, completing the parliamentary approval of his new center-left government.

* ALGIERS--Algeria's president named former finance minister Ahmed Benbitour to be the country's new prime minister.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Here you have a religion that was born here, which is indigenous to this land, started by a Jew who was living here, and you have the people living here who don't know the first thing about it."

-- the Rev. Robert Fortin, an American priest, who is overseeing millennium festivities for the Catholic Bishops' Conference in the Holy Land -- Page A1.