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World Briefs II

Former General Insists Russia Lost Portable Nuclear Bombs

Los Angeles Times

Alexander Lebed, the former Russian general and presidential hopeful, has been broadcasting his claim over the past week that Russia has lost track of 100 nuclear bombs the size of suitcases.

"A very thorough investigation is necessary," Lebed reiterated to reporters Monday. "The state of nuclear security in Russia poses a danger to the whole world." The general's allegations are roundly denied by Russian officials, who contend that all of Russia's nuclear weapons are safely under control.

Despite the official denials, Lebed is pursuing his allegations undeterred. In an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" aired Sunday, Lebed said the suitcase bombs were ideal weapons for terrorists because they could be armed and detonated by a single person within half an hour.

One of the one-kiloton bombs could kill 100,000 people, he said. Of 250 suitcase devices made by the Soviet Union, he said, 100 are unaccounted for.

According to Lebed, the suitcase bombs, measuring about 23 by 16 by 8 inches, were deployed by the Soviet Union in special brigades in some of the empire's remote regions. After the breakup of the Soviet state, many of the suitcases vanished in what became independent republics, where they could fall into the hands of terrorists, he said.

Panel Backs Postmaster in Urging Negotiating Individual Bulk Rates


A panel composed of large commercial mailers recommended Monday that Congress give the U.S. Postal Service authority to negotiate postage rates with individual bulk mailing companies.

To overcome the high labor costs, the committee said, the agency should boost its investment in automation and work with employees "to reduce the unit costs of handling and delivering all classes of mail."

The committee supported allowing the Postal Service Board of Governors, the panel of presidential appointees that oversees the agency, to overrule by a majority vote stamp-price decisions issued by the independent Postal Rate Commission. Currently, all nine governors must agree to overrule the commission.

John T. Estes, executive director of the Main Street Coalition for Postal Fairness, a group of newspapers and other mailers, attacked the report, saying its findings would hurt small mailers.

"We have consistently questioned the appropriateness of large volume discounts and a weakened Postal Rate Commission," Estes said.