THE MIDDLE EAST Israeli May Quit Cabinet

JERUSALEM -- Israel's defense minister said yesterday that he was considering quitting the coalition government after he was criticized for evicting Jewish settlers from a West Bank outpost.

Binyamin Ben-Eliezer's remarks showed there are cracks in the coalition over the evacuations, but he was seen as unlikely to lead the center-left Labor Party out of the government.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government came under strain after religious coalition partners complained that the army desecrated the Jewish Sabbath when the dismantling of the Havat Gilad settlement outside Nablus started on Saturday, when ritual law forbids work other than to save lives.

ReutersEUROPE Montenegro Win Projected

PODGORICA, Yugoslavia -- A coalition led by President Milo Djukanovic won a general election in the Yugoslav republic of Montenegro, according to a projection based on early returns.

Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists and its Social Democrat allies won an absolute majority of about 39 seats in the 75-seat assembly, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy said.

A bloc favoring closer ties with Serbia won 30 seats, it said.

The vote was widely seen as a test of public confidence in Djukanovic after he bowed to Western pressure and agreed last March to temporarily shelve plans for independence, triggering the fall of the government and forcing early elections.

ReutersTHE AMERICAS Close Vote in Ecuador GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador -- Five candidates were fighting for the lead in Ecuador's presidential race, setting the stage for a second round in a contest characterized by paper-thin margins, early official returns showed.

With 82 percent of the votes counted, Lucio Gutierrez, a cashiered army colonel who is an admirer of Fidel Castro and Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez, surged into the lead with 19.10 percent of the vote.

He was followed by banana magnate Alvaro Noboa with 17.65 percent; moderate leftist Leon Roldos with 15.88 percent; Xavier Neira, candidate of the right-wing Social Christians, with 15.57 percent; and former president Rodrigo Borja, a center-left social democrat, with 15.20 percent.

A runoff between the two top vote-getters will take place Nov. 24 if no candidate receives 50 percent.

Associated PressFOR THE RECORD

A man firing a shotgun killed two people and injured eight before being taken into custody at a university campus in the Australian city of Melbourne, police and emergency services said.

Investigators survey the scene where a homemade bomb exploded near a Roman Catholic church yesterday in the southern Philippine city of Zamboanga, killing one person and injuring at least 12.