U.S. HOMEBUILDING STARTS REBOUND A surge in construction activity in the West during September gave a surprising boost to the national pace of new homebuilding, the US Commerce Department said yesterday. The annual rate of starts on new homes and apartments rose 4.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.53 million units last month the strongest monthly homebuilding rate this year. With mortgage rates still rising, Wall Street economists had forecast September starts would weaken. The gain in September construction was concentrated in the West, where starts soared 21.4 percent to a 386,000 annual rate. In the Northeast, they dropped 8.9 percent to a rate of 133,000. Walkouts in France

Strikes idled trains, closed libraries, and kept state radio stations without news broadcasts in France yesterday, the latest job actions to beset the conservative government of Premier Edouard Balladur. The protests come as Mr. Balladur seeks to end bickering within his conservative coalition six months before presidential elections. He is the undeclared front-runner in the race to succeed Socialist President Mitterrand.

Tribal feud in India

Tribesmen embroiled in a bitter turf war killed 37 rivals, police said yesterday. The long-simmering feud between Naga and Kuki tribesmen in remote Manipur State in northeast India has left 300 civilians dead in the past year. The unrest is straining the federal security forces, which have only recently managed to control insurgencies in the nearby states of Assam, Tripura, and Mizoram.

Joint naval exercise

Two ships from the US Sixth Fleet joined Russian patrol boats yesterday at the start of an eight-nation naval exercise in the Black Sea. The six-day US-sponsored operation will include surface-to-surface gunnery training. The US ships join those from the navies of Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Vietnam, China spar

The low-key war of words between Vietnam and China continued yesterday, with Vietnam denouncing recent Chinese newspaper articles and charging that Chinese fishing vessels are entering its waters. At the same time, Vietnam announced that the two countries will open their third round of talks over their disputed land and sea borders on Monday in Hanoi.

Fighting in Chechnya

Renewed fighting between government and opposition forces was reported yesterday in Russia's breakaway region of Chechnya, with both sides giving conflicting accounts of the bloodshed. Opposition and government troops have been skirmishing for months over control of Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region of 1.2 million people in the Caucasus Mountains.

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