THE AMERICAS

Peru's Leader Allowed to Seek Third Term

LIMA, Peru--Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has won legal approval to run for an unprecedented third term to build on a decade of rule marked by free-market reforms, tough anti-rebel policies and accusations of human rights abuses.

The national election board rejected last-ditch appeals Friday night by 16 opposition figures and political parties who argued the constitution banned Fujimori from running again in April.

After months of hinting, Fujimori announced on Monday that he would seek a third term, saying he wanted to consolidate the free-market reforms of the past decade in this Andean country of 25 million people. Fujimori said he also wanted to press on with tough anti-guerrilla policies. His government has been widely criticized for human rights abuses in that fight.

Fujimori, Latin Americas's longest-serving democratically elected leader, came to power in 1990 and reelected in 1995.

Rebels Blow Up Pipeline in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia--Marxist rebels bombed Colombia's second-largest crude export pipeline, forcing a halt to oil pumping operations, authorities said.

The 480-mile pipeline was hit 40 miles from the Cano Limon oil field, operated by U.S. multinational Occidental Petroleum Corp. in northeast Arauca province, a spokesman for state-run oil company Ecopetrol said.

The pipeline, which has a capacity of 230,000 barrels a day and runs to the Caribbean coast oil terminal at Covenas, was repaired only five days ago after a previous sabotage attack.

It was bombed at least 77 times last year, according to Ecopetrol, equaling the previous record for attacks set in 1998.

Leftist guerrillas routinely target energy infrastructure in protest at what they see as the excessive involvement of foreign multinationals in Colombia's oil industry.

Elsewhere in Colombia, grenade blasts, shootings and stabbings killed at least 88 people in New Year's celebrations, police said. In one of the worst incidents, two people died and nine others were injured when unidentified attackers threw a grenade into a crowd at an open-air party in the town of Guadalupe, in northeast Santander province.

ASIA

Bomb Found Before New Year's Party

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan--Security guards discovered a bomb in central Dushanbe shortly before the start of New Year's Eve celebrations but were able to defuse it before festivities began, the Tajik interior minister said.

The 17-pound TNT device had been hidden in trees alongside city hall, just 55 yards from the main square where a celebration attended by the prime minister and several cabinet members was being held.

The bomb was discovered at 11 p.m. and Interior Minister Sundin Sharipov said an explosion was narrowly averted. Authorities were trying to determine who planted the bomb.

Tajikistan remains restive despite a 1997 peace agreement that ended a five-year civil war between the hard-line government and the mostly Islamic opposition. Many opposition warlords and ex-government officers oppose the peace deal, and outbreaks of violence are frequent.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Israeli Leader Courts Influential Rabbi

JERUSALEM--Hours before departing for peace talks with Syria, Israel's prime minister today visited an influential rabbi in an attempt to win his support for a land-for-peace deal with the Arab neighbor.

Prime Minister Ehud Barak called on Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, at the rabbi's Jerusalem home. Shas is the second biggest party in the government coalition and the third biggest in parliament.

Any peace treaty with Syria will have to be approved by parliament and in a national referendum. The support of Shas is essential in the parliamentary vote, and the rabbi's influence could be decisive in the referendum.

Yosef is a political moderate who has spoken out in favor of giving up land to Israel's Arab neighbors if this will lead to a genuine peace.

Supporters of Shas, most of whom are immigrants from Arab and other Islamic countries, are wary of returning the Golan Heights to Syria.

Army Patrol Ambushed in Lebanon

TRIPOLI, Lebanon--A militant Muslim group ambushed an army patrol in northern Lebanon yesterday, killing four soldiers and kidnapping two others, the Lebanese army said.

The incident occurred Friday night in Dinniyah when "a group of extremists ambushed [an army] patrol . . . by opening fire on its vehicles, killing four soldiers and wounding three," a statement by the army's Directorate of Orientation said.

A lieutenant colonel and a soldier were kidnapped after the officer reported the incident to his command and asked for reinforcement, the army said.

Dinniyah is a sparsely populated mountainous area 45 miles east of Tripoli. It is known to be a haven for a group of Sunni Muslim militants.

EUROPE

Cezanne Painting Stolen From Museum

OXFORD, England--Thieves broke into an Oxford museum and made off with an oil painting by the French artist Paul Cezanne, authorities said.

The thieves broke through the glass roof of Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum, grabbed the painting valued at about $4.8 million and escaped unnoticed, the museum's director, Roger Hobby, told the BBC.

"Auvers-Sur-Oise," which was painted between 1879 and 1882, measures 18-by-22 inches and depicts a cluster of small white cottages in a tree-filled valley under a pink-gray sky.

Hobby said the theft probably happened around 1:30 a.m. while the streets of Oxford were crowded with noisy New Year's revelers. Police made no arrests.

The museum, in a 17th-century building, houses paintings by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci and Pablo Picasso. The stolen work was the only Cezanne in the museum's collection.

QUOTE OF THE DAY:

"This is not simply about restoring honor and dignity to the country. This is about how to bring about the end of the breakup of Russia. That is your fundamental goal."

-- Vladimir Putin, Acting Russian president, speaking to troops in Chechnya