RUSSIA INTERCEDES ON BEHALF OF SERBIA Russia yesterday offered an initiative aimed at averting aistrikes around Sarajevo. Moscow called for the withdrawal of Bosnian Serb heavy guns from above the capital, in accordance with the NATO ultimatum, and deployment of Russian troops on the front lines to help secure a cease-fire. The plan, contained in a letter from Russian President Boris Yeltsin, was accepted by the Bosnian Serbs and their chief patron President Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia, according to a UN news conference held in Sarajevo yesterday. An initial 400 Russian troops will be brought from a UN area in Croatia, but Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin said that the Russian parliament would have to meet and authorize the dispatch of additional Russian troops. Under the Feb. 10 NATO ultimatum, the Bosnian Serbs were to withdraw their heavy artillery from around Sarajevo, place it under UN control, or face possible airstrikes. Trade deficit soars

The US trade deficit surged to $115.78 billion last year, the worst showing in five years, as the deficit with Japan climbed to its highest level in history, the Commerce Department reported yesterday. It said that the US trade imbalance jumped 37 percent from the 1992 level of $84.5 billion. Last year's deficit with the Japanese rose to $59.3 billion, representing slightly more than half the total. Rebels release ex-governor

Mexican rebels freed a former governor on Wednesday, held hostage since the early days of their uprising in the southern state of Chiapas, in a possible prelude to peace talks with the Mexican government. Retired Army Gen. Absalon Castellanos Dominguez, seized by the Zapatista National Liberation Army Jan. 2, was handed over to government peace envoy Manuel Camacho Solis. Taiwanese election changes

Taiwan's ruling Nationalist Party has decided to introduce direct presidential elections by popular vote as part of democratic reforms, a party spokesman said yesterday. Currently the president is chosen by the National Assembly, which is expected to decide in April whether to change the election system. Most members are from the Nationalist Party. Taiwan began democratic reforms by lifting martial law in 1987. Olympic results

US skier Tommy Moe, celebrating his 24th birthday, followed his stunning victory in the downhill last Sunday by taking the silver yesterday in the men's super giant slalom. And in freestyle skiing, US skier Liz McIntyre stepped forward to take a silver medal Wednesday in the women's moguls competition.

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