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American Telephone & Telegraph has hired the services of 100 top Russian physicists at annual salaries of $720. The fiber optic scientists are from the Russian Academy of Science's General Physics Institute. AT&T Bell Labs said the scientists suggested the low salary to avoid labor conflicts with their colleagues.... Strong demand in the transport sector during April helped push orders for expensive US durable goods up for a fourth straight month. EUROPE

NATO allies yesterday backed plans to expand the alliance's peacekeeping role to conflicts in Europe. Plans will be finalized next week for helping the 52-nation Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe with such missions anywhere in Europe, including what was Yugoslavia. But the US has no plans to send troops into that conflict.... Russian President Boris Yeltsin said the physical strain of governing is the reason he won't seek reelection in 1996, when his five-year term ends. Russian law also s ays a candidate can't be older than 65, the age he will have attained by the next election. ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

Japan has welcomed the plan to make it a member or an observer of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.... Chinese Premier Li Peng, whose country's dramatic economic development has caused devastating pollution, is to attend the environment summit in Brazil in June, diplomatic sources say. China's state media portray Li as China's "environmental prime minister." ... The UN said it expects more than 1 million Afghan refugees to return home this year after the fall of the Soviet-backed gove rnment in Kabul.

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