ASIA

Curfew Imposed on Violent Spice Islands

JAKARTA, Indonesia--Thousands of terrified residents fled bloody clashes between Christians and Muslims in Indonesia's Spice Islands, and security forces imposed a curfew on parts of the region, a top general said yesterday.

Indonesian Brig. Gen. Max Tamaela said the measure came after 350 people died in five days of sectarian violence.

"At the moment, we have limited people from going around at night," Tamaela said. "We will ban people from going out on the streets between 10 in the evening and six in the morning."

Ambon, a port city that is also the capital of Maluku province, was quiet but tense. For the first time in days, no gunfire or explosions could be heard in the city, 1,500 miles east of Jakarta, witnesses said.

Police spokesman Maj. Jekeriel Philips said there had been sporadic shooting overnight, but no casualties had been reported. He said both sides were using the lull in the fighting to bury their dead.

Five people were killed yesterday as Christians and Muslims clashed in the village of Makariki, on nearby Seram island, said Malik Selang, an official of Ambon's Al Fatah Hospital.

S. Korea Offers Amnesty to 1 Million

SEOUL--South Korea released 3,501 prisoners, including two North Koreans jailed for more than 10 years for spying, as part of a sweeping amnesty just ahead of the New Year, the justice ministry said.

Another 6,145 people who had been sentenced to social work for minor crimes were also pardoned under the amnesty, the ministry.

Annual amnesties in South Korea affect hundreds of thousands of people convicted of crimes ranging from minor driving offenses to high-level graft. President Kim Dae Jung had said on Wednesday the government would announce the amnesty, affecting about one million people in a gesture he hoped would promote national unity.

EUROPE

French Find Cache of Explosives

PAU, France--Police said Friday that they had discovered about 2,200 pounds of explosives belonging to suspected Basque terrorists in an overnight raid in this southwestern French city. The explosives contained sodium chlorate and were hidden in a garage near the police station in central Pau, police said. A special anti-terrorist group was assigned to handle the investigation.

Security has been stepped up in the French Basque region following the recent announcement by the Spanish Basque separatist organization ETA that it was ending its 14-month cease-fire.

French authorities said they feared renewed terrorist attacks on French territory.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Hezbollah Vows to Step Up Attacks

BEIRUT--Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas warned Israel that they would usher in the New Year with more suicide attacks against Israeli soldiers in south Lebanon.

In a scathing speech to a rally of more than 1,000 supporters, Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said peace deals between Arabs and Israel would not bring stability to the Middle East or legitimacy to the Jewish state.

"There is no solution to the conflict in this region except with the disappearance of Israel," he told the crowd. "Peace settlements will not change reality, which is that Israel is the enemy and that it will never be a neighbor or a nation."

Qatar Will Build Catholic Church

DOHA, Qatar--Qatari authorities have approved the building of a Catholic church in the capital Doha, the Gulf Times reported in its weekend edition.

The English-language paper quoted Italian ambassador Ignazio Di Pace as calling the move "a very important step, consistent with the principles of tolerance and freedom which are among the noble goals of the emir," Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Thani.

AFRICA

Sudanese Cabinet Resignation Accepted

KHARTOUM, Sudan--Three weeks after declaring a state of emergency, President Omar Hassan Bashir said Friday he has accepted his cabinet's resignation, paving the way for him to consolidate his power in a new cabinet.

In a speech marking Sudan's 44th anniversary of independence, Bashir said ministers and state governors had expressed their desire to resign and he had accepted their resignations.

However, he asked them to stay on as caretakers until he can reform the cabinet.

Congo Rebels Attack Government Troops

KIGALI, Rwanda--A Congolese rebel leader said that 80 government troops had been killed in renewed fighting in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Jean-Pierre Bemba, who heads the Congolese Liberation Movement, a small rebel group backed by Uganda, said his troops attacked two large wooden canoes ferrying government troops down the Congo River on Wednesday near the northwestern town of Libanda.

Congolese President Laurent Kabila, backed by troops from Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia, has struggled for a year and a half to put down rebel groups backed by Uganda and Rwanda that control the north and east of the country.

THE AMERICAS

Scattered Showers Put Venezuela on Alert

CARACAS, Venezuela--Scattered showers fell on Venezuela's devastated Caribbean coast, triggering small landslides and placing emergency services on alert for fear of a repeat of deadly mudslides that killed up to 50,000 people.

Some of the landslides were along the main highway connecting the capital Caracas with the coastal state of Vargas, which was hit hardest by flash floods in mid-December.

But officials stressed that the rains had not caused any life-threatening situations and urged Venezuelans to remain calm.

FOR THE RECORD

* UNITED NATIONS--Bangladesh, Jamaica, Mali, Tunisia and Ukraine begin two-year terms on the prestigious 15-nation U.N. Security Council today. They were elected by the 188-nation General Assembly in October to fill seats being vacated at the end of 1999 by Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "What we did was not for recognition or anything else. It was just for a humanitarian cause." -- Afghan Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil, speaking of his government's role in ending the Indian Airlines hijack crisis