RUSSIA TO JOIN PARTNERSHIP Russia will sign on for NATO's Partnership for Peace program on April 21, Deputy Foreign Minister Vitaly Churkin said April 5. His remarks at a Foreign Ministry briefing were Moscow's most concrete statement since President Boris Yeltsin's spokesman cast doubt recently on whether Russia would join the Partnership program this month as planned. The program is intended to build closer military ties to former Soviet-bloc countries without giving them immediate, full membership in NATO. So far, 14 Eastern European nations have signed up. US economy

The US government's chief forecasting gauge of future economic activity suffered its first decline in seven months, the Commerce Department reported April 5. Much of the weakness was blamed on severe winter weather. The department's Index of Leading Indicators dipped 0.1 percent in February following a revised 0.4 percent increase in January and a 0.6 percent spurt in December. The April 5 report could provide some assurance to jittery investors who have been dumping stocks and bonds out of concern that the rapidly expanding economy would trigger renewed inflation. Bond prices dropped again and the stock market dropped more than 40 points on April 4, but stocks rebounded April 5, opening sharply higher in early trading. Serbian fighting

A Bosnian Serb commander said April 5 that his forces had smashed a Muslim offensive from Gorazde as the battle for the eastern Bosnian town entered its

second week. A Serb artillery and tank attack on the Bosnian government enclave that began Mar. 29 killed 49 people and wounded 218, most of them civilians, a UN relief spokesman said.

GATT protest in India

Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas April 5 to block 100,000 leftist activists marching toward Parliament to oppose the GATT world trade agreement. The protest was organized by Communist parties and affiliated trade unions to demand that India reject GATT. The 116-nation agreement is scheduled to be signed by government ministers from around the world in Morocco on April 15. Critics say many of its provisions will mean higher prices and unreasonable competition for Indian businesses. Biosphere sabotage

A former Biosphere 2 crew member accused of sabotaging the self-contained glass-and-steel dome says she broke windows and opened doors to ``flush'' the air for the safety of the volunteers inside. ``It is categorically not sabotage,'' Abigail Alling told the Los Angeles Times on April 4. Ms. Alling said she and another former crew member, Mark Van Thillo, had let in outside air. Biosphere officials gave no motive for the sabotage, but Ms. Alling and Mr. Van Thillo had been suspended three days earlier in a management shake-up. NCAA basketball

President Clinton's favorite team, the Arkansas Razorbacks, defeated the Duke Blue Devils 76-72 in April 4's US college basketball championship. A misty-eyed President Clinton hugged every Arkansas player in a locker room celebration. When Mr. Clinton came to Scotty Thurman, who sank the winning shot, a 3-pointer with no time on the shot clock and 51 seconds left in the game, he said simply, ``Thank you. That was wonderful.''

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