Civilians Flee as Fighting Rages in Grozny

MOSCOW--Furious street battles continued for a fifth day in the Chechen capital of Grozny yesterday, and the Russian media cast fresh doubt on the army's optimistic reports.

Military status reports said troops had tightened control over a number of targets in the city and halted a Chechen attack near the village of Duba-Yurt at the mouth of the Argun gorge, which leads to rebel bases in the mountains.

Some Russian media suggested the army's delay in reporting a general's disappearance was a sign commanders could be understating other losses as well.

"According to Defense and Interior Ministry statistics, the foundation of the Chechen forces has been obliterated with minimal losses," the daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper said. "Yet the battles continue."

The United Nations said refugees are now fleeing in the largest numbers in weeks. More than 200,000 already have fled Grozny, which once had more than 400,000 people.

Kosovo Protection Corps Inaugurated

PRISTINA, Kosovo--Dozens of former rebels were inducted as the first leaders of the Kosovo Protection Corps, a group charged with rescue missions and rebuilding tattered infrastructure.

The first 44 members of the corps--many of whom were members of the formally disbanded rebel Kosovo Liberation Army--were sworn in by the top international civilian and military officials in the province.

NATO set up the corps last fall, hoping that a multi-ethnic organization would help heal the divisions in the province.

Klima Calls for Talks on New Government

VIENNA--Austria's president asked Chancellor Viktor Klima to begin talks with all parties in parliament on a new government following the collapse of negotiations between Klima's Social Democrats and their longtime coalition partners.

Klima had said earlier that he would try to form a minority government after party leaders rejected conditions put forward by the center-right Austrian People's Party to renew their 13-year coalition. He has tried to keep the far-right Freedom Party and its leader, Joerg Haider, out of the government even though it won more votes than the People's Party in October's elections.


Three Arrested in Killing of Bishop

GUATEMALA CITY-Guatemalan police arrested a military father and son Friday in connection with the death of a prominent bishop in 1998 shortly after the cleric published a report blaming the army for many war atrocities.

Deputy Constable Gerson Lopez said that police arrested Capt. Byron Lima Oliva, 30, and his father, retired Col. Disrael Lima Estrada, 58, for allegedly taking part in the slaying of Bishop Juan Jose Gerardi. Lopez said police had also arrested an elderly woman, Margarita Lopez, a cook in the parish house where Gerardi lived. Prosecutors issued arrest warrants for two other people--a military intelligence officer and a priest who was Gerardi's aide--officials said.

Gerardi was killed April 26, 1998, two days after releasing a landmark report that accused Guatemala's military of extensive atrocities during the 36-year civil war that ended in 1996.

Gunmen Kill 10 Civilians in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia--Gunmen suspected to be right-wing militants killed at least 10 people in northern Colombia, a day after an ultra-right paramilitary group threatened revenge killings for recent leftist rebel sabotage attacks in the area.

Police said they believe members of the United Self-Defense Forces of Cordoba and Urab are responsible for the execution-style murders of the 10 men in a rural corner of Antioquia province.

The group, Colombia's largest paramilitary force, issued a statement Thursday saying it would kill 10 leftist sympathizers every time rebels bombed an electrical pylon as part of their campaign in Antioquia.

Another Algerian Sought in Bomb Plot

VANCOUVER, B.C.--Police in three countries are searching for a new suspect in an investigation into an alleged millennium bomb plot by Algerian Islamic extremists against the United States, a Vancouver newspaper reported.

The daily Vancouver Province said police in Canada, Ireland and the United States were hunting Algerian-born Hamid Aich, 34, who shared an apartment in a Vancouver suburb with another suspect in the case, Abdelmajid Dahoumane.


Son of Former Cult Leader Kidnapped

TOKYO--Intruders believed to be cult followers abducted the 7-year-old son of the former guru of the doomsday group behind the 1995 gas attack on Tokyo's subway.

The kidnapping, which reportedly involved the former guru Shoko Asahara's daughter, was likely a sign of infighting in Aum Shinrikyo as it faces increasing pressure to disband, Japanese media reports said.


U.N. Predicts Food Shortage in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia--Eight million Ethiopians will need food aid next year after drought led to a sharp drop in the country's food production, the government said.

The state-run Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission appealed for 820,000 tons of food aid for 8 million people, including about 400,000 people displaced by the war with Eritrea.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program estimate the grain harvest fell to 10.7 million tons in 1999 from 11.4 million in 1998, mainly due to low rainfall.

Swiss Freeze Assets of Former Dictator BERN, Switzerland--Swiss banks have frozen $645 million in accounts belonging to the late Nigerian dictator Gen. Sani Abacha and his associates, investigators said.

It is the largest amount frozen since Switzerland began investigating the bank accounts of former dictators and their cronies, the Federal Office of Police Affairs said.

Last September, Nigerian officials asked Switzerland to investigate Abacha, who had been accused of systematically plundering the Nigerian Central Bank and hiding the money in overseas bank accounts. Abacha died of an apparent heart attack in June 1998, after ruling for five years.


"I think I can associate myself with [the African Natonal Congress's] fundamental principles."

-- Roelof F. "Pik" Botha, former South African foreign minister and defender of apartheid