ASIA

Sri Lankan Police Release Detained Tamils

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--Sri Lankan police said today they had freed all but about 50 of the hundreds of ethnic Tamils detained in a major anti-rebel swoop on the capital, Colombo.

Jagath Jayawardena, deputy inspector-general of police, said that some 1,500 people detained between late Thursday and Friday had been released after questioning.

"Only around 50 are still in detention for further questioning," Jayawardena said.

Police said some of those detained could be suicide bombers.

Freed Cleric Urges Holy War on India

BAWAHALPUR, Pakistan--A Pakistani cleric, who was freed as a condition of ending the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane last week, declared a holy war against India today and recruited volunteers to fight for the disputed region of Kashmir.

Maulana Masood Azhar, the most prominent of the three militant prisoners released by India in exchange for the 155 passengers and crew aboard the aircraft, addressed tens of thousands of people outside a mosque in his hometown of Bawahalpur.

"There is no way open for us other than to wage jihad [holy war] against India for Kashmir's liberation," Azhar said during prayers.

Hindu Leader Urges Reconversion

AHMEDABAD, India--A leader of a powerful right-wing Hindu group asked his followers to work toward reconverting Hindus who have taken to Christianity.

"We must resolve that with love and affection we will bring them back home," H.V. Seshadri, general secretary of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, said at a camp for volunteers in the western state of Gujarat. The group is the ideological mentor of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which leads India's coalition government.

China Urges Iraq to Work With U.N.

BEIJING--China urged Iraq to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors to speed the lifting of trade sanctions against the Arab country, state-run media reported.

Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan told visiting Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz that China was opposed to sanctions, but Baghdad needed to respect U.N. Security Council resolutions, the New China News Agency said.

AFRICA

Abidjan Businesses Return to Normal

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast--Shops and businesses in Abidjan returned to normal operations, easing fears of the army discontent that had renewed tensions here two weeks after a military coup.

Many shops in the Plateau business district closed hurriedly Thursday afternoon after reports of shooting and troop movements swept Ivory Coast's commercial capital, a port city of 3 million people. Tension was fueled by rumors suggesting that lower-ranking soldiers, who staged a pay mutiny that paved the way for the Christmas Eve coup d'etat against President Henri Konan Bedie, were unhappy with the government named by Gen. Robert Guei, the military junta leader, on Wednesday.

Kenyan Police Hunt for Escaped Suspects

NAIROBI--Police and prison guards were hunting for 15 suspects who escaped from a prison in central Kenya, a police official said.

Deputy police spokesman Dola Ididis said at least 21 suspects charged with capital crimes ranging from murder to treason scrambled over the prison wall and a barbed wire fence Thursday as guards changed duties at Thompson Falls Jail in Nyahururu, 100 miles northwest of Nairobi. Six of the escapees were captured, Ididis said.

THE AMERICAS

Cold Weather Kills 100 Mexicans

MEXICO CITY--Bitter cold has has killed 100 people throughout Mexico in the past three weeks, Health Minister Jose Antonio Gonzalez said.

The unusually cold weather, which began in November, has produced the most fatalities in the northern deserts, especially in the border state of Chihuahua, where temperatures have dropped to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

EUROPE

U.S. Army Sergeant Loses Appeal

HEIDELBERG, Germany--The U.S. Army's former top enlisted man in Europe has lost his appeal of the punishment and fine he received for fraternizing with a female subordinate, the command said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Riley C. Miller was found guilty of fraternization with his female driver at a hearing Dec. 21. The military earlier had dropped more serious charges that Miller had sexually assaulted her.

Lt. Gen. James C. Riley, the commander of 5th U.S. Army Corps in Heidelberg, who had the option of recommending that Miller face a court martial trial or lesser action, had ordered he be given a letter of reprimand and forfeit $3,700 in pay over a two month period. A military statement said Gen. Montgomery C. Meigs reviewed and denied Miller's appeal of that punishment.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iranian Leader Pardons 1,026 Prisoners

TEHRAN--Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has pardoned 1,026 prisoners to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the beginning of the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

Pardons marking religious and national events are common in Muslim countries. In Iran, prisoners convicted of minor offenses are pardoned.

Yeltsin Attends Orthodox Mass

BETHLEHEM, West Bank--A visibly moved Boris Yeltsin celebrated a Christmas Mass with Orthodox priests and East European leaders, concluding his Holy Land pilgrimage at Jesus's birthplace.

The Orthodox churches worldwide celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7, and the festive occasion brought to the Holy Land an unprecedented number of their officials, along with heads of state from Orthodox nations. The political dignitaries included the leaders of Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Yeltsin, who stepped down as Russia's president on Dec. 31.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"The moment has arrived when someone else should have a go."

-- Gen. Gennady Troshev, one of two Russian commanders in the Chechen war who were replaced.