The army leaders who seized power over Christmas are promising elections in 100 days, but many Surinamese believe longtime military chief Lt. Col. Desi Bouterse is back at the helm to stay.

In a radio address Tuesday, acting army chief Cmdr. Ivan Graanoogst said the army would set up an interim government that would administer the elections in this Georgia-size nation on South America's northeastern coast."The army is not bent on having and keeping power," said Graangoost, who heads the military police and has been No. 2 in the military chain of command.

The United States condemned the apparently bloodless Christmas Eve coup in this former Dutch colony that toppled a nearly 3-year-old elected government.

The coup's mastermind was thought to be Bouterse, who had resigned just hours before President Ramsewak Shankar was toppled. Bouterse and Shankar had been engaged in a long and bitter dispute.

Bouterse ruled this nation of 400,000 people for eight years after seizing power in a 1980 coup and has wielded considerable power behind the scenes since Shankar's coalition government was elected by a landslide in November 1987.

It was not immediately clear how the coup might affect an insurgency that had crippled the mining of bauxite - a major export used in producing aluminum. A peace agreement between guerrillas and the ousted government was opposed by the army.

The country returned quickly to normal following the Monday night coup. By Tuesday, churches were packed for Christmas services, and there was no sign of an unusual military presence in Paramaribo, the capital.

In his broadcast, Graanoogst the international airport would stay open and there would be no curfew because "there is no danger whatsoever."

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Sondra McCarty called for the restoration of the civilian government.