THE ATLANTIC ALLIANCE WIDENS ITS CIRCLE NATO ministers yesterday endorsed a US plan to offer limited partnerships to Russia and other former foes. The plan will offer military cooperation ranging from joint exercises to coordinated peacekeeping, but it falls short of the membership countries had sought. The partnership will be open to all former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet states, as well as Europe's four neutral nations. Potential partners would be required to share information about their defense budgets and defense forces, show that civilians control their militaries, and standardize weapons, communications, and tactics with NATO. Partners also would be expected to participate in peacekeeping missions, disaster relief operations, and crisis management operations. European nations hope the plan will decrease the potential for the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Israeli-PLO talks bog

Israeli and Palestinian delegations hit their first serious negotiating snag today over Israel's refusal to release Palestinian prisoners accused of killing Israeli citizens. The Palestinians seek the release of all of the estimated 12,000 prisoners held by Israel, but Israeli officials worry that releasing all prisoners would fuel opposition to the peace plan.

An assassination yesterday of a moderate Palestinian leader, Assad Saftawi, in Gaza Strip cast a pall over the talks in Taba, Egypt.

US backs Shevardnadze

President Clinton yesterday backed the embattled former Soviet foreign minister Eduard Shevardnadze in the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus.

Rebels loyal to former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia are fighting to restore him to power and remove President Shevardnadze. In a separate conflict, secessionists have captured the western Georgian province of Abkhazia.

The US also started a series of nine aid flights Oct. 5 and was planning to send more food, shelter, blankets, and clothing. Serbian parliament sacked

Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic dissolved parliament amid a bitter no-confidence debate and called new legislative elections for December. The move Wednesday was an attempt to thwart a power struggle with former allies of Mr. Milosevic's ruling Socialists, the nationalist Radicals.

The Radicals blame the Socialists for the disastrous state of the economy. Burdened by the costs of supporting Serbs in Croatia and Bosnia, and resulting UN sanctions, Serbia is suffering hyper-inflation, high unemployment, and plummeting living standards. Haiti accord shaky

Haitian Prime Minister Robert Malval threatened yesterday to quit his post if exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is not allowed to return to power by Oct. 30, the deadline negotiated by the UN.

But the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Antoine Joseph, said parliament would not likely resolve its disputes over the UN accord by the deadline. Haitian Radio reported that Samuel Milard, a member of Mr. Aristide's coalition, was kidnapped overnight.

The US added tough conditions for lifting the UN embargo on oil and weapons to one of the world's poorest countries, demanding that military leader Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras step down and that the Army suppress civilian gangs. L.A. split but calm

Sighs of relief overwhelmed the voices of anger as citizens viewed the final act of the Reginald Denny beating trial. The populace of the nation's second largest city, Los Angeles, battered by riots and three grueling trials, was deeply divided over the verdicts, but remained peaceful following a jury's Oct. 20 acquittal of Damian Williams on a charge of attempting to kill trucker Reginald Denny.

The jury remained undecided on one count of assault against a second defendant, Henry Watson. Washington recycles

President Clinton yesterday ordered a major increase in federal purchases of recycled paper as part of an effort to make the government a leader in recycling and create new markets for mountains of waste paper. A last-minute modification sought by Senate majority leader George Mitchell (D) of Maine gives special consideration to his home-state paper mills.

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