EUROPE

Russian Reformers Form New Movement

MOSCOW -- In the latest political union to emerge in Russia ahead of December's parliamentary elections, three reformist politicians unveiled a new alliance yesterday.

The bloc, called Union Right-Wing Forces, placed ex-prime minister Sergei Kiriyenko, former deputy prime minister Boris Nemtsov and prominent legislator Irina Khakamada at the top of its candidate list.

Russian right-wing politicians favor democratic reforms and oppose the Communists and other leftist hard-liners. "This is not a right-wing party of power," Kiriyenko said. "We need a normal right-wing opposition in the country."

Former prime minister Sergei Stepashin, meanwhile, said in a surprise announcement that he would join forces with parliament's leading liberal party, Grigory Yavlinsky's Yabloko movement.

Cruise Ship, Cargo Vessel Crash Unexplained

MARGATE, England -- British maritime experts were at a loss to explain how a cruise liner carrying 2,400 people and a cargo ship collided in the English Channel in good weather.

At least 21 passengers and eight crew members on the Norwegian Cruise Line ship suffered minor injuries in the crash with the Panama-registered cargo ship Ever Decent. The impact caved in the bow of the cruise ship and ignited a fire that raged for hours on the cargo ship.

The accident occurred about 1:15 a.m. in a busy shipping lane off the coast of southeast England. Most of the 1,726 passengers on board were Americans.

Ethnic Albanians Keep Russians at Bay

ORAHOVAC, Yugoslavia -- Rejecting NATO demands, ethnic Albanians refused to lift their blockade against Russian peacekeepers, warning that Moscow's forces will "only destabilize the situation."

Using trucks, tractors and trailers to block twisting mountain roads into this divided Kosovo town, ethnic Albanians blocked Russian peacekeepers from replacing Dutch soldiers.

Russian, Dutch and German officers met with a four-member ethnic Albanian delegation to demand they move the mile-long traffic jam that clogged the main road into Orahovac. The Albanians refused and rejected a proposal for joint Dutch-Russian patrols.

Talks on WWII Slave Labor Turn to Money

BONN -- Negotiators aiming to resolve German firms' liability for using slave laborers during World War II began to talk about how much money the firms should pay.

Under pressure from U.S. lawsuits against German companies, the government and industry launched the idea of a compensation fund for the slave workers last year. In the months since then, representatives of 16 German firms accused of using slave labor have been meeting with lawyers representing Jewish organizations and Holocaust survivors.

The two sides hope to hammer out an agreement on how big the fund should be. The talks are being mediated by the U.S. and German governments.

Norwegians Survive Polar Bear Attack

OSLO -- Two Norwegian adventurers spent 12 days stranded on an Arctic island because a hungry polar bear destroyed their two kayaks.

The two men set off in mid-June on a 700-mile trek around Norway's Svalbard archipelago and had less than 190 miles to go when the bear ripped the boats into tiny pieces Aug. 9 to get at their food as they were unloading supplies.

On Saturday, a Norwegian coast guard helicopter spotted the two men waving frantically and arranged their rescue. Both were in good condition, the Nordlys newspaper said.

ASIA

China Moves American to Another Hospital

China has agreed to speed up investigations into the activities of an American researcher and let him move to another hospital for treatment of spinal injuries, the State Department said.

If the investigations are finished in time, the researcher could leave China for treatment in another country, State Department spokesman James Foley said at his daily briefing.

The researcher, pro-Tibetan activist Daja Meston, 29, was detained while investigating a World Bank project in Qinghai province. He hurt his spine when he jumped from a window, reportedly to escape police.

Indonesia Bars American Journalist

UNITED NATIONS -- Indonesia refused this week to admit an American journalist who has irked the regime for years with her criticism of its policy in East Timor.

Amy Goodman, a producer for Pacifica Radio, flew from New York to Bali, Indonesia in an effort to get to East Timor to cover an Aug. 30 independence referendum in the former Portuguese colony, which was annexed by Indonesia in 1975.

In a telephone interview from Taiwan, Goodman said customs officials at the Bali airport forced her to board a plane to Taipei on Monday after they found her name on a government "blacklist." The officials told her that she was prohibited from entering the country under orders from the Defense Ministry, she said.

Taiwanese Airliner Catches Fire; 28 Hurt

TAIPEI -- An explosion sparked a raging fire aboard a Taiwanese jet, injuring 28 people.

The UNI Airlines MD-90 caught fire on the runway in east-central Taiwan's Hualien Airport, 110 miles southeast of Taipei. As the jet touched down, there was a loud noise from the front of the cabin, and thick black smoke poured out from one of the overhead luggage compartments, according to the airline's vice president, Si Chung-ching.

THE AMERICAS

Head of Venezuelan High Court Quits Post

CARACAS, Venezuela -- The president of Venezuela's Supreme Court resigned in protest, saying the court had "committed suicide" by caving in to a constitutional assembly controlled by supporters of President Hugo Chavez.

Cecilia Sosa said she was giving up her post to protest a Supreme Court ruling late Monday supporting the assembly's decision to give itself extensive powers to fire judges and overhaul the courts. She said that decision contradicted an earlier court ruling that the assembly should be limited to writing a new constitution.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Finally, we are talking in a way that is devoid of games, devoid of deceit."

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat -- Page A11