EUROPE CRITICIZES RUSSIA ON CHECHNYA Russia's effort to put down a secessionist revolt faced mounting criticism yesterday in Europe, where leaders called for talks to end the conflict. European leaders concerned about undermining Russian President Boris Yeltsin had expressed only muted opposition to the crackdown in Chechnya, but the tenor has sharpened as Russian forces have bogged down and casualties risen. ``It is in our right to demand explanations from Russia,'' French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe told the French radio station RTL yesterday. ``We want to see an early end to the fighting,'' said a British Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity. Germany criticized Moscow on Tuesday for being too heavy-handed in Chechnya, and Norway, Sweden, and Denmark, in separate statements, appealed for an end to the bloodshed. (See related story, Page 1.) INS seizes counterfeiters

Federal officials say they broke up a huge document counterfeiting ring that supplied faked documents to a large part of southern California. An Immigration and Naturalization Service sting led to the arrests of three men, as well as the seizure of 115,000 blank residency cards, Social Security cards, and other documents, authorities said Tuesday.

Cheney won't run

The potential field of 1996 Republican challengers to President Clinton has narrowed with former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney's surprise and abrupt decision Tuesday not to run. He had been exploring the possibility around the country. Congress and baseball

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) of New York says he plans to introduce a bill to completely remove strike-beset baseball's antitrust exemption. Rep. Michael Billrakis (R) of Florida is planning to introduce similar legislation in the House of Representatives. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah is expected to call a hearing this month or next. Owners and baseball officials say the exemption is needed to preserve the minor leagues. Japan, US auto talks

Tokyo and Washington have agreed to resume talks on foreign access to Japan's auto market. Trade Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told reporters yesterday he hoped the talks, stalled since October, would resume in late January. Auto trade is a perennial irritant in Japan-US relations and accounts for about half of Japan's annual $60 billion US trade surplus.

Judge blocks `Megan's Law'

Publicizing a rapist's release from prison would amount to additional punishment and could prevent him from getting a fresh start, a judge ruled in a challenge to a community-notification law. US District Judge John Bissell in Newark, N.J., issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday granting Carlos Diaz a reprieve from ``Megan's Law,'' which was passed by New Jersey lawmakers after an outcry over the rape and killing of seven-year-old Megan Kanka. A released sex offender who lived across the street from her has been charged with her murder.

Prison escapees sought

While inmates sang and prayed at a prison chapel in Belle Glade, Fla., over the Christmas holidays, six killers working eight feet below tunneled their way to freedom, digging into the soft soil with spoons and their hands. The escape Monday night from the state prison was discovered when the six men triggered alarms as they made their way under a razor-wire fence. One of the six was captured right away just outside the prison 70 miles north of Miami.

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