Investigators in the World Trade Center bombing are said to be focusing on the first claim of responsibility received: a call from a Serbian group that knew the site of the blast before the public did. "That's the most likely direction and that's the first place they're looking," said a Federal Bureau of Investigation official speaking yesterday on condition of anonymity.

The caller, who said he was a member of a previously unknown group called the Serbian Liberation Front, was the first of dozens to claim responsibility for the blast that killed at least five people.

But at a news conference Wednesday, James Fox, head of the FBI's New York office, said of the call: "There was no unique information in it. The only thing the guy said was, `This is no accident.' " US economy

The Mortgage Bankers Association predicted Wednesday that mortgage delinquencies, which dipped to an 18-year low late last year, will continue to shrink this year as the economy grows and interest rates fall.

Also, while orders to US factories declined 1.3 percent in January, the largest drop since August, the backlog of unfilled orders increased 0.4 percent, the third increase in the last four months. A rising backlog means workers may need to be hired.

New jobs would help raise The Conference Board's Help-Wanted Advertising Index which fell to 93 in January from 95 in December. During the week ending Feb. 20 unemployment claims jumped by 26,000 to 351,000, the largest increase in seven weeks. Angola food aid

Angola appealed Wednesday for international aid to feed more than 2 million people facing the consequences of drought and renewed civil war. A minister said the United Nations World Food Programme had so far pledged 70,000 tons of food and the European Community 19,000, but much more was needed. Auto insurance

Draft legislation was introduced in the California Legislature Wednesday which would fund the state's auto insurance system through a 30-cent-a-gallon gasoline tax. The controversial proposal's aim is to bring down high insurance costs and eradicate the problem of an estimated 6 million uninsured drivers on its roads. Gays in military

The US government is appealing a federal judge's ruling striking down the military's ban on homosexuals. Justice Department lawyers representing the Pentagon said in papers filed with a federal appeals court Wednesday that the ruling conflicts with President Clinton's interim policy on the issue. South Korean amnesty

South Korean President Kim Young Sam may release more than 200 prisoners convicted of politically related crimes in a sweeping amnesty this week, a press report said yesterday. The amnesty, may include leading dissident Moon Ik Hwan. The pastor's release has been one of the conditions set by the Communist North for improving ties with South Korea.

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