ASIA Fire in Vietnam Kills at Least 54 People HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- At least 54 people were killed in a fire that engulfed a six-story building in Ho Chi Minh City and state-controlled newspapers said the toll could rise to more than 100.

The blaze in the International Trading Center began at lunchtime yesterday and raged for five hours in the heart of the southern Vietnamese city's business district.

State media said 120 people were injured.

Rescuers searched for dozens of people believed still trapped inside the building, where a wedding reception with more than 500 guests had been taking place.

An American insurance company with offices in the building was conducting a training seminar for about 100 employees when the fire erupted. Six staff members of the American International Assurance Co. were still missing, a company official said.

The building housed a disco, where the fire is said to have started, a restaurant and at least two stories of shops, as well as offices.

The cause of the blaze has not been established.

News Services Suspect Sought in Bali Bombings

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Police are seeking an Indonesian suspect in the Bali bombings that killed almost 200 people -- most of them foreign visitors -- on Oct. 12, the lead police investigator said.

Gen. I Made Pastika, who is heading the police investigation of the nightclub bombing, said detectives had made a composite sketch of the unnamed suspect based on witness testimony. "He is the one who assembled and placed the bomb," Pastika said.

National police chief Dai Bachtiar said the suspect is no longer in Bali.

The police announcement of their first suspect comes more than two weeks after the explosions that destroyed two nightclubs and the economy of one of Indonesia's most popular tourist destinations.

President Megawati Sukarnoputri visited the site of the bombings for the second time and met with police to discuss the investigation.

In a related development, police said it could be several days before they are able to question Muslim cleric Abubakar Baasyir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiah, a regional network of Islamic activists and militants that authorities suspect is involved in the Bali bombings. Baasyir has denied the existence of such a network. He has been arrested in connection with a string of church bombings in 2000 that killed 19 people and was moved to Jakarta on Monday.

Doctors said Baasyir, who is in a police hospital, needs up to four days of rest before he can be questioned.

Ellen Nakashima Kazakh Journalist Detained in Rape Case ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Police have detained a journalist for a human rights publication on suspicion of raping an underage girl, prompting the Kazakh political opposition to accuse the authorities of trying to muzzle the press.

Sergei Duvanov, 49, editor of the weekly bulletin International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law, was taken early Monday to a police station from his country home near Almaty. Duvanov, known for articles harshly critical of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, had been due to fly to Washington later on Monday to report on Kazakhstan's media, democracy and human rights to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"This morning citizen S. submitted a written statement to police, saying that her 14-year-old daughter had been raped by citizen Duvanov," Murat Urumkhanov, deputy head of Almaty regional police, said during a news conference.

"Raping an underage person is a grave crime," he added. "He [Duvanov] may face four to 10 years in prison if found guilty."

Duvanov said in a statement he had fainted and could have been drugged by a strange-tasting tea he drank on Sunday after being visited by two underage girls living near his villa and who washed in his steam bath after helping him clean the house. "I am simply being discredited in the eyes of my Western colleagues in the most dirty and untruthful fashion. They will try to put me behind bars not to allow me to write stories unpleasant to those in power," he said in the statement.



France, Britain Put Off Summit

PARIS -- France postponed key talks between President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain as a dispute over farm aid exposed deeper strains in Europe.

Diplomatic sources in Paris said the Franco-British summit scheduled for Dec. 3 had been put off, after revelations that Blair was angry over a pact between France and Germany that stymied Britain's demand for a reform of European Union farm funding.

"We need a bit of time on both sides to make sure that this important meeting is properly prepared. We will let you know the date for the next summit once it is set," said Francois Rivasseau, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

But other sources said Paris and London were at odds over a range of issues including Iraq, fledgling endeavors to give the 15-nation EU a bigger role in defense and peace-keeping in Macedonia and other places.

Chirac's office would not make any official comment on the postponed summit, but the response from London was rapid.

Blair's official spokesman said: "There's no desire on our part to see the summit canceled. The next one is in France. It is for the French to announce when and where it is."


Earthquakes Rattle Mount Etna Area CATANIA, Sicily -- A series of earthquakes shook the area around Mount Etna, sending panicked residents of nearby towns into the streets two days after the volcano erupted.

The Italian government declared a state of emergency for the volcano area, and the Defense Ministry decided to send in 1,000 soldiers. A ship equipped with a medical clinic was positioned off nearby Catania.

In the town of Santa Venerina, at the foot of the volcano, several people suffered minor injuries as they scrambled for safety, said Carmela Floreno, a civil defense official in Catania.

Civil Defense headquarters in Rome said the largest earthquake had a preliminary reading of magnitude 4.4.

Authorities evacuated about 1,000 people from homes near the volcano until buildings could be checked for structural damage, Floreno said. Residents were given refuge in tents and hotels.

The volcano erupted on Sunday, sending streams of lava down the mountain and causing ash to rain from the sky. The lava and ash activity was less intense yesterday, but the airport in Catania remained closed for a third day. Schools in Catania and nearby towns were closed.

Satellite photos showed ash drifted as far away as Libya, some 400 miles away.

Associated Press