New violence erupts in Greece

ATHENS, Greece - Masked youths set up burning barricades and threw fire bombs and chunks of marble at riot police yesterday after a protest march erupted into new fighting that sent Christmas shoppers and panicked parents fleeing.

Mothers snatched children from a carousel in the main square. Waiters stumbled from cafés choking on tear gas fired by police at rioters trying to burn the capital's Christmas tree. After two weeks of unrelenting rioting set off by the fatal police shooting of a teenager, a slogan spray-painted outside the Bank of Greece summed up the mood: "Merry crisis and a happy new fear."

Later, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis announced measures to shield the country's tourism industry from the financial crisis and continued unrest. He said he would increase spending on tourism marketing by 50 percent, suspend loan repayments for tourist enterprises, and provide tax breaks.

- AP

NATO, Russia to resume ties

BRUSSELS, Belgium - NATO and Russia will resume diplomatic contacts for the first time since the war in Georgia, the alliance's spokesman said yesterday.

James Appathurai said NATO's secretary-general and Russia's ambassador to the Western alliance would meet informally today. It will be the first such meeting since NATO froze diplomatic contacts in the wake of Moscow's invasion of Georgia in August.

Russian Ambassador Dmitry Rogozin has said in the past that he would welcome resumption of ties. But the Russian mission played down expectations. "We don't expect anything specific from tomorrow's meeting, but it is a step in unfreezing our relations," said Igor Semenenko, a senior Russian diplomat.

- AP

New accusations from N. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea yesterday accused South Korea of hiring an agent to track Kim Jong Il and suggested that the man had planned an assassination attempt before his arrest.

The sensational allegation comes amid a serious worsening of relations between the divided Koreas as well as intense speculation about Kim's health since he reportedly suffered a stroke and had brain surgery in August.

The North's Ministry of State Security identified the arrested man's family name as Ri. The statement said the "terrorist mission" was ordered by a South Korean intelligence organization "to do harm to the top leader." South Korean officials said they were checking the claim.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Crews using jackhammers

and blowtorches took down one of Spain's last statues of the late Gen. Francisco Franco, eliminating a symbol of decades of right-wing dictatorship. Several hundred people watched from behind barricades. Franco ruled from 1939 until his death in 1975.

Venezuela's National Assembly

began considering a proposed referendum to abolish term limits, which could let President Hugo Chavez run for reelection indefinitely.