EUROPE

Tanker Breaks Up Off Brittany Coast

BREST, France--A tanker carrying about 8 million gallons of diesel oil broke in half during a violent storm yesterday and began leaking off the northwest coast of France, officials said.

The captain of the Maltese-registered tanker Erika called for help while the boat was tossing in heavy waves off the coast of Brittany, about 60 miles south of the city of Brest, officials said.

French and British rescue teams evacuated the 26-member crew, and no one was injured, authorities said.

The tanker had left Rotterdam and was heading to Italy.

Capt. Yves Merle of the Brest Port Authority estimated that between 600,000 and 1.5 million gallons of diesel oil had leaked into the ocean.

Russia: Chechen Rebels Building Defenses

CHIRI-YURT, Russia--As Russian airstrikes against the Chechen capital of Grozny remained on hold so civilians could flee, the military accused rebels of using the lull to build fortifications and to plant mines.

Col. Gennady Alyokhin, a Russian military spokesman, said that rebels were building defenses on strategic heights on the outskirts of Grozny, planting mines in the city streets and installing machine guns on building roofs.

With Russian forces poised around Grozny, other troops headed south, where thousands of rebels are believed to be entrenched in mountains. A convoy of about 50 armored vehicles and long-range artillery guns rolled into positions outside villages 15 miles south of Grozny.

Yugoslavia Warns NATO Not to Interfere

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia--Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic warned NATO against any attempt to intervene in tensions between Montenegro and Serbia, saying the army would defend the country, a newspaper reported.

Bulatovic made the comments Saturday after U.S. Gen. Wesley Clark said NATO was watching "very closely" the situation in Montenegro. The republic, long chafing at Serbia's domination of Yugoslavia, has sought greater autonomy, or even independence.

Fears were raised of a new conflict in the region when the Serb-led federal army engaged in a brief standoff last week with Montenegro's police force over Montenegro's main airport.

"NATO should mind its own business," Bulatovic was quoted as saying. "The army has nothing to do with politics but it has to do with defending the country from any NATO aggression, so we can tell them: Come here if you dare."

"They should know that in Montenegro they would meet armed resistance of the Yugoslav army and of all citizens of Yugoslavia," said Bulatovic, a close ally of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.

AFRICA

State of Emergency Declared in Sudan

KHARTOUM, Sudan--Sudan's president, Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan Bashir, declared a three-month state of emergency starting today.

Following Bashir's appearance on television, an announcer read a series of presidential decrees dissolving the parliament. The announcer also said that legislative elections would be held at an unspecified date.

The moves, to take effect today, apparently were part of a struggle within the country's leadership and came as parliament considered amendments to Sudan's constitution that would have curbed the powers of the president.

Last week, Sudan agreed to a peace accord with Uganda to end a long-running border war. The deal was mediated by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iraq Claims Allied Planes Killed 2

BAGHDAD, Iraq--Allied warplanes bombed a residential area in northern Iraq, killing two children and injuring six people, the official Iraqi News Agency reported yesterday.

Maj. Andy White, a U.S. spokesman at the base in Turkey where planes patrolling Iraq are stationed, confirmed that U.S. planes returned fire after being fired on by Iraqi antiaircraft artillery. But he said he had "nothing to support claims of damage or injury to civilians."

Iranian President Defends Reforms

TEHRAN--Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi defended his reform program before 15,000 cheering university students in his first major speech since a conservative court jailed one of his key allies.

"We are seeking to build a system based on the will of the people," Khatemi told the crowd at Tehran's Science and Technology University. "We are determined to build this model society by fighting against exploitation and dictatorship in the hope of establishing a free society and government."

ASIA

Key Japanese Economic Index Improves

TOKYO--Japan's central bank said today its latest quarterly survey showed a modest improvement in business sentiment in the three months to December, supporting views that the world's second-biggest economy is headed for recovery.

The Bank of Japan's closely watched corporate survey's sentiment index for big manufacturers, a key gauge of the likelihood of sustained recovery next year, rose for a fourth consecutive quarter, though falling slightly short of economists' forecasts. Economists said brisk industrial production and a recovery in Asian economies have boosted corporate managers' confidence despite the adverse effects of the yen's strength.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"We will establish order on the basis of law. We will strike at those who take bribes!"

-- Yevgeny Primakov, former Russian prime minister, in a televised political advertisement

CAPTION: French authorities implemented an emergency antipollution plan after the 50,000-ton tanker Erika broke up off the coast of Brittany.