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Briefs (left)

Moscow Market Roof Collapses Under Snow, Killing 56

By Andrew E. Kramer

A roof laden with snow collapsed over a vegetable market in an outer district of Moscow early Thursday, killing at least 56 people, mostly young men from Central Asia and the Caucasus who worked as laborers and produce traders.

The roof came down on the Basmanny Market, one of the Moscow area’s largest, around 5:20 a.m., before it opened for retail sales but while some wholesale buyers from restaurants and grocery stores were inside, survivors said.

“Glass was falling and people ducked under their stalls,” said an herb trader from Uzbekistan who was inside when the roof fell in. “The lights went out and I heard people yelling, ‘Help!”’

The man, who gave only his first name as Uktam, said he groped in the dark toward an exit and later helped a woman escape from a car partly crushed by a block of concrete.

By nightfall, about 500 rescue workers were swarming over the pile of rubble in a search for trapped survivors.

Officials at the emergency management agency said late Thursday that at least 56 had been killed and 32 injured. President Vladimir V. Putin appeared on television and urged a thorough investigation. “Rescuers are doing all they can to help survivors,” he added.

New Hope Seen for Global Trade Agreement

By Katrin Bennhold
and Graham Bowley

The conditions are in place for resolving in the first half of this year the most contentious issues in negotiations for a world trade agreement, paving the way for a final accord before the end of 2006, a world trade official said Thursday.

In his most optimistic assessment yet, Pascal Lamy, director general of the World Trade Organization, said in an interview that negotiators realized in recent weeks that a deal must be struck before elections in the second half of the year in critical member countries, including the United States, Brazil and Mexico.

Also pressing the agenda is President Bush’s waning fast-track trade negotiating authority, which is set to expire in July 2007. Lamy, who visited Washington last week, said his talks with members of the finance and agricultural committees in both houses of Congress had made clear that those powers would not be extended.

Israeli Troops Kill Five in Nablus


Israeli troops shot five Palestinians to death on Thursday during clashes in the West Bank city of Nablus, the Israeli military and Palestinian medical workers said.

Israeli troops have been pursuing militants in the Balata Refugee Camp, on the edge of Nablus, for several days, and the fighting has been some of the heaviest in recent weeks.

The Israeli soldiers killed three wanted members of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in a shooting exchange with the gunmen, who were holed up in a house, Palestinian witnesses and medical workers said.

A fourth Palestinian man, who the Israeli military said was armed, was shot dead on the roof of a house. The fifth Palestinian killed was part of a group of stone-throwing youths, Palestinians said, though the military said he had been shot after throwing a firebomb at the soldiers.Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, in a statement called on the Israeli government to end “its aggression against the Palestinian people, because this escalation will lead to a further deterioration and undermine efforts at preserving the climate of calm.”