EUROPE

Ruling Party Concedes Defeat in Croatia

ZAGREB, Croatia--The Croatian Democratic Union, which was founded by the late President Franjo Tudjman and governed since the country's independence almost a decade ago, conceded defeat today in elections for the lower house of parliament.

"We have lost the election, but I swear we shall be a very serious and firm opposition," Foreign Minister Mate Granic said after preliminary results showed his party trailing in eight of Croatia's 10 districts.

The state electoral commission said the main center-left opposition alliance, headed by the reformed communist Social Democratic Party, had taken a clear lead in yesterday's vote, with 61 percent of the votes counted.

Voter turnout of 78.06 percent was a near record, indicating awareness that the first vote after the Dec. 10 death of Tudjman would be critical in determining whether Croatia remains on his authoritarian and nationalist path or moves toward greater democracy and closer ties to the West.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Clash in Lebanese Village Kills 17

BEIRUT--At least 17 people, including two women hostages, were killed when Lebanese soldiers stormed a northern village where Muslim fundamentalists were hiding out.

Soldiers carrying machine guns and rocket-propelled grenade launchers killed 11 militants on the run from the army and captured several others, an army statement said. It said two women hostages held by the militants were killed, as were four soldiers.

The statement said the village of Kfar Hibbou, in the mountains around Sir ad Dinniyah town, bore the brunt of the clashes which started after militants from the radical Takfir and Hijrah groups took refuge in homes there.

Sectarian Riots Hit Southern Egypt

CAIRO--An area of southern Egypt was under curfew after three days of sectarian rioting and looting left 20 people dead, the Interior Ministry said. Coptic Bishop Wissa, whose parish includes several villages hit by the unrest, said the dead were all Christians from el-Kusheh, a village of 23,000 at the center of the unrest 275 miles south of Cairo. Coptic Christians are the largest religious minority in mainly Muslim Egypt, making up 10 percent of the population of 64 million.

The violence began Friday when guns were drawn during a dispute between a Muslim street vendor and a Christian shopkeeper.

THE AMERICAS

Ex-Wife of Peru Leader Plans Election Bid

LIMA, Peru--President Alberto Fujimori's former wife is likely to run against him in April's elections, her lawyer said.

Susana Higuchi wants to run for a small opposition party, the Independent Moralizing Front, which has accused the two-term president of dictatorial rule and civil rights abuses. The group will decide Wednesday whether the former first lady runs as a presidential or vice presidential candidate or for a seat in Congress.

Fujimori, Latin America's longest-serving democratically elected leader, has said he will run for an unprecedented third term to continue a decade of rule marked by free market reforms and tough anti-rebel policies that sparked criticism of human rights abuses.

Venezuelan Slums Evacuated

CARACAS, Venezuela--Venezuelan authorities forced hundreds of people to leave their homes in slum neighborhoods in Caracas, warning that more lives could be lost in landslides caused by continued heavy rains.

As many as 50,000 people were killed and 400,000 made homeless last month when flash floods and mudslides struck the country's Caribbean coast, burying entire towns under tons of earth and rocks.

With meteorologists forecasting up to a month of further rains, evacuation efforts were concentrated on poor neighborhoods where flimsy homes have been built on precarious slopes and along river gorges.

AFRICA

Politicians Discuss Ivory Coast Cabinet

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast--Ivory Coast's political leaders presented military ruler Robert Guei with their nominees for positions in a transitional government to be announced this week, political sources said.

Guei, who took power Christmas Eve, has promised to return Ivory Coast to democracy with fair and open elections, but has given no timetable.

ASIA

Spice Island Fighting Continues

AMBON, Indonesia--New fighting erupted between Muslims and Christians in Indonesia's Spice Islands, leaving at least 18 more people dead even as soldiers and police confiscated thousands of weapons in an effort to halt the violence.

Fifteen people were killed when the warring sides clashed on Halmerah island in North Maluku province, 1,600 miles east of Indonesia's capital, Jakarta, a local military officer said. In North Maluku's provincial capital, Ternate, three Halmerah residents trying to flee the violence were beaten to death, the Antara news agency reported.

It was the latest episode in a recent flare-up of violence in the region. Fighting in Maluku and North Maluku, which together were known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial rule, claimed more than 550 lives last week. About 1,300 people have died in the two provinces since religious fighting first erupted a year ago.

Tamil Tigers Blamed for Bombing

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--The Sri Lankan government came out with a public accusation for the first time in last month's suicide bombing, with President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga saying Tamil Tiger rebels tried to kill her.

Kumaratunga, 54, suffered a serious eye injury in the assassination attempt Dec. 18. The attack, in which 23 people were killed, came just three days before elections. She was reelected president in the vote.

This is the first time the Sri Lankan government has blamed the separatist Tamil rebels on the record for the assassination attempt.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Putin is a creature of the presidential entourage. How can he break off from these people?"

-- Andrei Piontkovsky, a Russian analyst, on acting President Vladimir Putin's decision to fire former president Boris Yeltsin's daughter Tatyana Dyachenko from her post as a senior Kremlin adviser -- Page A1