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DUESSELDORF--Former East German spymaster Mar-kus Wolf admitted that his agents frightened an American translator they kidnapped in 1955 but said he did not remember details of the case. Testifying Wednesday at the second day of his retrial on spy-related activities, the 73-year-old Wolf said abductions were "a regular part" of Western and Eastern intelligence operations during the Cold War.

BONN - A group of 26 American celebrities published an "open letter" to Chancellor Helmut Kohl on Thursday accusing Germany of persecution of Scientologists.


TEHRAN - Iran denies that it was involved in a mortar explosion in the Iraqi capital that killed one person and wounded several others, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.


ROQUEBRUNE-CAP-MARTIN - Zairian President Mobutu Sese Seko returned to France Thursday, less than a month after going home to face a rebel incursion and political crises. Mobutu's return raises questions about his health and the severity of the cancer that kept him in Europe from August until Dec. 17, two months after the start of a rebel war in his central African country.

Sri Lanka

COLOMBO - Separatist Tamil rebels launched major attacks on two northern military camps Thursday, killing 60 soldiers and wounding 232. The military said 500 rebels were believed to be dead or injured.


BEIJING - China's food industry is booming, judging from the rapid growth in the number of restaurants, fast-food joints and street food stalls. There are two eateries per every thousand Chinese, employing more than 7 million people and bringing in $10.5 billion in the first half of 1996, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday.


JAKARTA - Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and Indonesian President Suharto pledged mutual cooperation on Thursday, with both stressing the importance of ties between Tokyo and Southeast Asian countries.


BAGHDAD - President Saddam Hussein has announced a pardon for Iraqis who admit to illegal contacts with foreigners, an amnesty that begins Thursday and lasts throughout the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.


JERUSALEM - Gen. John Shalikashvili, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on an official visit to Israel for talks on military cooperation, both sides said on Thursday.


LONDON - Britain said on Thursday it would ban the shooting of some wild birds because cold weather was threatening their survival. The temporary ban, starting on Friday, covers ducks, geese and shore waders, which cannot feed because of frozen conditions.

South Korea

SEOUL - Thousands of striking workers and students clashed with riot police in downtown Seoul Thursday, demanding that the government repeal a new labor law.


MOSCOW - Yevgeny Prima-kov, Russia's foreign minister, acknowledged Thursday that Chechnya might soon gain full independence and said Russia must work to either prevent or cushion such a move. Russia recently pulled its final troops out of the southern republic after almost two years of war with Muslim separatists. President Boris Yeltsin and other top officials have insisted Chechnya will remain part of Russia.