ISRAEL STARTS WEST BANK HANDOVER Israel began handing over authority yesterday to Palestinians in parts of the West Bank still under its occupation, launching a new phase in its peace deal with the PLO. For the first time in the occupied area, Palestinian flags and pictures of PLO leader Yasser Arafat legally adorned official buildings after a signing ceremony in which Palestinians took control of education in the town of Ramallah. Education is the first of five fields of authority to be handed over in ``early empowerment,'' the next phase of the 11-month-old peace deal under which the Palestinians took over the Gaza Strip and the West Bank enclave of Jericho in May. Rwanda influx to Zaire Pakistan denies it has bomb

The government yesterday strongly denied a statement by a former prime minister that Pakistan has a nuclear bomb. Several government officials repeated the country's position that it is capable of making an atomic weapon but has not done so.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who heads the main opposition party, said at a campaign rally in the Pakistani- held part of Kashmir Tuesday that Pakistan has the bomb. Uranium in Moscow

Authorities in Moscow arrested two unemployed men and seized 21 pounds of uranium-238 that had been stolen from a secret nuclear center, a news agency reported yesterday. It was just the latest in a series of cases involving the theft of nuclear materials from Russian research facilities.

Pipeline agreement

The presidents of Iran and Turkmenistan launched a $7 billion project yesterday to carry Turkmen gas via Iran and Turkey to Europe in what was billed by Tehran as one of the world's biggest energy-transfer deals. It will take six to eight years to build. Nigerian oil strike

Nigeria's striking oil workers appeared to be holding firm against the military government yesterday.

Oil industry officials said strikers were ignoring a back-to-work order by Gen. Sani Abacha's military government. The strike by Nigeria's key work force oil accounts for 90 percent of export earnings began over demands for the release of presidential claimant Moshood Abiola. Maradona suspended

Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona has been banned from playing nationally or internationally for 15 months because he took a banned stimulant during the World Cup tournament. The disciplinary panel of FIFA, soccer's governing body, decided to set the punishment when Maradona flunked a routine drug test after Argentina's match June 25 against Nigeria.

Cincinnati misses out

The Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority was one hour late in July in applying for a $2 million federal drug-fighting grant, an authoity official said Tuesday. Now 20 housing developments will not get more police patrols or be able to expand drug-fighting programs for at least a year.

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