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News In Brief

(Page 2 of 2)

French train drivers in six towns ended their strike, but workers in 84 main transportation centers continued their stoppage. Analysts said that union resolve in the three-week-old strike may be weakening. In the past few days, the government made many concessions on plans to restructure the indebted state railways and the welfare system.

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Russian helicopter gunships fired rockets into the center of Chechnya's second-largest city. Many people were killed, witnesses said. Meanwhile, Chechen rebels seized a hospital in Grozny as voting began ahead of schedule in national and local elections. The rest of Russia will vote Sunday, and polls showed an increasing voter interest, with the Communist Party tipped to win. (Story, Page 7; Opinion, Page 19; Editorial, Page 20)

A Colombian congressional committee cleared President Ernesto Samper of charges that he authorized the receipt of millions of dollars from the Cali drug cartel to fund his 1994 election win. The vote effectively removed the threat of impeachment Samper is facing, sources said. Opposition politicians called the ruling a whitewash.

Australia will sign a security pact with Indonesia, Prime Minister Paul Keating announced. The accord, to be signed Monday in Jakarta, Indonesia, indicates a major turnaround in relations between the two countries. The treaty commits them to talks about common security interests but does not necessarily commit either nation to come to the defense of the other.

China called US criticism of the 14-year prison sentence given to dissident Wei Jingsheng unwarranted. The statement focused on the US and did not mention any other country, although Germany and Britain have also condemned the sentencing.

The signs for a revival of Syrian-Israeli talks are positive, sources said. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres was reportedly surprised when the official Syrian newspaper called his statements about Syria's important role in the Middle East ''political pragmatism.'' Elsewhere, a Muslim militant was killed after he stabbed and wounded two elderly Jewish settlers in Hebron.

''Please don't take my husband away from his family,'' Yolanda Gill pleaded to the Japanese court. She is the wife of one of the three US servicemen charged in the rape of an Okinawan schoolgirl. Mrs. Gill says she is trying to raise $5,000 to compensate the victim's family - a move defense attorneys have said could lighten Gill's sentence.

Racial tensions exploded as about 100 bat-wielding youths smashed windows and looted stores in Brixton, a predominately black London neighborhood. Protesters decried the Dec. 5 death of a black man in police custody. Police say the man just collapsed.

Chung Tae-soo, chairman of South Korea's Hanbo Group, was released on medical parole as he awaited trial next week with former President Roh Tae Woo on bribery charges. Chung, has been charged with offering bribes to Roh and also help him launder part of a $654 million slush fund.


When Wayne Bass and his hamster Sweep (above) tried to ride a bus near London, the driver made Wayne pay a fare for his critter. Embarrassed bus company officials have apologized and given Sweep a lifetime pass.


1996 will be delayed briefly. US clocks will add a ''leap second'' at the end of 1995, the National Institute of Standards and Technology says. Leap seconds are added periodically to keep the clocks in tune with Earth.


A young Peruvian porker at a zoo in Sheffield, England, made a pig of himself recently when he devoured a party buffet meal fed to him by a keeper who thought the box was full of scraps. There was still other food for the party guests. And the stuffed pig snoozed contentedly.

Booklovers' Paradises

If you enjoy perusing bookstore shelves, be sure to visit these towns: They have the most bookstores per 10,000 homes.

Stores per City Number 10,000 (by rank) of stores homes

5.25 Santa Fe, N.M. 25

4.18 Bloomington, Ind. 17

3.62 Bellingham, Wash. 19

3.32 Bryan-College 15 Station, Texas.

2.96 Burlington, Vt. 17

2.94 Bangor, Maine 10

2.8 Lawrence, Kan. 9

2.77 Charlottesville, Va. 14

2.7 Dover, Del. 11

2.6 Eugene- 30 Springfield, Ore.

2.54 San Francisco 167

2.44 Madison, Wis. 36

- By permission of ''Bookselling This Week,'' a publication of the American Booksellers Association

'' My government is taking part in this agreement without any

enthusiasm but as someone taking a bitter yet useful potion.''

- Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic, at the Balkan peace agreement signing ceremony in Paris.