Today's Story Line:

Day by day, political power in Russia is flowing away from President Boris Yeltsin and over to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Just look at that picture on page 7. These days, Mr. Primakov is busy trying to restore the economy and, maybe, win votes to become the next president. The former spymaster is now catching crooks rather than spooks.

Peace or war is in the details at the Kosovo talks near Paris, and reporter Jon Landay was able to get the secret draft of a settlement designed by the United States and its partners. The plan appears to far exceed the amount of self-rule that would be allowed by Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic, who rode to power stressing the importance of keeping Kosovo. By Monday, it may be make-or-break time for peace. Meanwhile, in Serbia, opposition to Mr. Milosevic is weak.

Valentine's Day is a chance to look at romance Japanese-style. The coining of new expressions reveals a rather practical approach to love.

- Clayton Jones World editor

REPORTERS ON THE JOB * COVERING KOSOVO: Sorting through Belgrade's politics is complicated. But it's in the countryside of the former Yugoslavia where a reporter's mettle is tested. In warring Kosovo, Serb forces dominate some areas, while ethnic Albanian rebels control others. Between these areas are deserted stretches where snipers threaten everyone. Correspondent Justin Brown recalls driving last summer from an Albanian pocket to a Serb-controlled zone. The drive between wasn't long, perhaps a couple hundred yards. But it was perilous. Dead cows, a dead horse, and a dead person, shot by snipers, partially blocked the dirt road. Fallen trees made passage difficult, and Justin had to stop occasionally to drag them off the road. The final stretch was "the worst 100 yards of my life," he says. On the other side, it didn't get much better. Serb guards at the first checkpoint were drunk, but after a brief inspection, they waved their arms as if to signal him through. Apparently, Justin misunderstood. As he drove away, they started shooting. Justin sped away, and to this day, he isn't sure if they were trying to kill him, or just harass him. Justin, like other reporters, knows the risks are necessary. The real Kosovo story isn't in Belgrade but in the countryside, with burned villages, soldiers, and refugees.

FUTURE NEWS * SOUTH OF THE BORDER: President Clinton will be in Mexico on Monday, just before an annual exercise required by Congress in which the United States government must decide whether Mexico is doing enough to stem the flow of drugs. Story in tomorrow's paper.

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