- Former military strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega was flown home to Panama yesterday to be punished once again for crimes he committed during a career that saw him transformed from a close Cold War ally of Washington to the vilified target of a U.S. invasion.

Noriega left Orly airport, south of Paris, on a flight operated by Spain's Iberia airlines.

He was delivered directly to the aircraft by a four-car convoy that escorted him from the French capital's La Sante prison.

The French Justice Ministry said France turned Noriega over to Panamanian officials yeswterday in accordance with extradition proceedings. It was the only official remark.

Noriega's return comes after more than 20 years in U.S. and French prisons for drug trafficking and money laundering.

During his captivity overseas Panama convicted him of killing two political opponents in the 1980s, and in a third case involving the death of troops who aided one of the opponents in a rebellion.

He was sentenced to 20 years for each of the three cases, and Panamanian officials said he would be sent straight to a jail cell when he lands.

The ex-general, whose pockmarked face earned him the nickname "Pineapple Face," could eventually leave prison under a law allowing prisoners over 70 to serve out their time under house arrest.