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SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina Bosnian Serbs faced a new threat from the north yesterday after a cross-border incursion by the Croatian army toward the rebel stronghold of Banja Luka.

Croatia's army, which has played a key role in the fighting in western Bosnia, moved south across the border, taking the towns of Bosanska Kostajnica and Bosanska Dubica, the Slobodna Dalmacia newspaper said.

At the same time, Bosnian army troops in the northwestern Bihac region moved east to retake Bosanski Novi, the newspaper said. They claimed to have taken Sanski Most, 25 miles west of Banja Luka, but Serbs appeared to be holding the town yesterday.

U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness confirmed a cross-border Croatian attack, but said it was not clear how far the Croatian soldiers advanced. The United Nations has no presence on the ground in the region.

Hours later, State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns said in Washington that the Bosnian and Croatian presidents had indicated to a U.S. mediator that their forces will cease the offensive against Banja Luka.

Burns said he had no details on the talks between U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic. But he said there was ''a direct indication'' that the offensive would be halted and that there would be a general slowdown in military action throughout Bosnia.

Bosnian Serbs claim they foiled the Croatian army incursion, Yugoslavia's Tanjug news agency said. But in Zagreb, Croatia, U.N. spokesman Alexander Ivanko said they had reports of Bosnian government artillery within 10 miles of Banja Luka.

''There is a threat, a serious threat'' to the city, he said.

The Red Cross said 12,000 refugees were on the road between Banja Luka and Derventa to the northeast. Refugees also were crowding other Serb-held towns in the region an estimated 30,000 in Prijedor alone, the Red Cross said.

The newest advance from Croatia means another front has opened against the rebel Serbs, who have already lost thousands of square miles in the region.

A Serb shell killed two Danish peacekeepers Monday in their camp at the Croatian border town of Dvor, and a senior Danish officer asserted yesterday the shelling was deliberate. The Serbs said Croatian shelling killed seven of their civilians at refugee camps near the Bosnian border and wounded 22 others.

Gunness speculated that Croatia might be trying to set up a buffer zone on its southern border similar to one created on its southeastern boundary over the past few months.

Once that is accomplished, the Croatian army would have little incentive in continuing its advances. After meeting yesterday with Tudjman, Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind of Britain said he was told the Croats already had ''stopped taking part in military operations.''

Croat and government forces claim they have captured 2,400 square miles or 12 percent of Bosnia in the past week. Slobodna Dalmacia reported that 35,000 government and Croat troops were participating in the Banja Luka campaign.

With the Serbs determined to protect Banja Luka, 85 miles northeast of Sarajevo, the easy gains appeared to have been checked.

''The Bosnian Serb army are assessed to be putting up far stiffer resistance along the whole of the confrontation line,'' said Lt. Col. Chris Vernon, another U.N. spokesman, adding they appeared to have retaken some territory from government troops.

MOGADISHU, Somalia Militia leader Mohamed Farah Aidid refused yesterday to release at least 20 foreigners who have been held since his forces took over one of the chaotic country's largest cities.

''He said no and he didn't give a reason,'' said Robert Vlazlovski, vice consul at the Australian High Commission in Kenya, where three planes were on standby to evacuate the workers.

Three Australians are reported among those being held, most of them aid workers, who have been under house arrest since Aidid's fighters attacked Baidoa on Sunday. The fighting drove out forces of rival clan leader Ali Mahdi Mohamed.

The exact number of people held was not known, but they were believed to include five Americans, two Frenchmen, one Italian a Dutch and staffers from Sudan, Rwanda and Kenya working for the U.N. agencies, CARE International, World Vision, International Medical Corps and International Development and Rehabilitation Board, U.N. officials said.

Aidid claims the foreigners are being protected rather than being under house arrest, Vlazlovski said.

Baidoa, a city of 300,000 about 130 miles northwest of Mogadishu, the capital, was quiet Tuesday night, aid agencies said. But fighters allied with Aidid reportedly were moving toward Baidoa from Mogadishu and others were massing in Bardera, about 70 miles southwest of Baidoa.

Ali Mahdi threatened Monday to attack Baidoa if Aidid's men didn't withdraw within 48 hours.

Australian Broadcasting Corp. journalist Ben Wilson, who is among those held in Baidoa, said Tuesday that Baidoa was in a state of tense alert.

''At the moment we have a number (of) guards who are keeping a lookout and keeping a very close watch at what is happening out on the street,'' he said in a satellite telephone call to his offices in Sydney.

''There's a degree of nervousness amongst everybody here about the uncertainty of what might happen if Ali Mahdi does declare war on General Aidid,'' Wilson said.

Sources in Mogadishu reported that Aidid's men overran two more small towns in the Baidoa region and were heading for a third.

Dozens of Aidid's battle wagons, trucks mounted with heavy weapons, were reported heading toward Huddor, about 100 miles north of Baidoa.

U.N., private aid groups and individual nations sought the foreigners' release in a letter sent Monday by the umbrella organization Somali Aid Coordination Body.

MODESTO, Calif. A 6-year-old girl stabbed a 7-year-old playmate in the back with a steak knife in a fight over Barbie dolls, police said.

The older girl was hospitalized in serious condition Monday with a 21/2-inch-deep wound.

The girls got into ''a hair-pulling, name-calling fight'' over the dolls, Lt. Tim Atchley said. The 6-year-old told her friend she was going to kill her, went home and returned to her friend's apartment with a knife, he said.

Police questioned the younger girl and released her to her parents. Atchley said there is little that can be done because of the girl's age.

''Our society is becoming more and more violent every day,'' he said. ''It's bad enough to see 14- and 15-year-olds inflict unimaginable kinds of bodily harm on each other.''

NEW YORK CompuServe Inc. on Tuesday denied a published report that it is considering buying half of its rival Prodigy.

Prodigy is the No. 3 on-line service behind CompuServe and America Online.

''There are absolutely no negotiations going on between CompuServe and Prodigy,'' CompuServe spokesman Pierce Reid said.

Advertising Age, citing unidentified executives, reported this week that CompuServe and its parent, H&R Block, have made overtures to Sears, Roebuck & Co. about buying Sears' 50 percent stake in Prodigy but have not made a formal offer.

Sears which owns Prodigy with IBM Corp. is said to be interested in relinquishing its stake, which analysts value at $500 million.

Sears spokesman Ron Culp refused to comment, as did IBM's Jeff Cross.

WASHINGTON The Washington Post and The New York Times cited ''public safety reasons'' in their extraordinary agreement to publish in yesterday's editions of the Post the so-called Unabomber's 35,000-word manifesto.

The bomber had said in June he would kill again unless the Post or the Times printed his densely written treatise within three months. The deadline is Sunday.

The Justice Department hopes the publication finally will lead investigators to the man whose 16 mail bombs have killed three and injured 23 others since 1978.

The newspapers said their decision to print the manifesto, which calls for worldwide revolution against modern industrial society, followed a meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said Reno and FBI officials recommended publishing the full manuscript because investigators were encouraged by the leads generated from earlier-published excerpts.

WASHINGTON A key witness in Senate hearings on the government's confrontation with Randy Weaver is a senior FBI official who alleged his bosses covered up the approval of ''shoot-on-sight'' rules against the white separatist.

Eugene Glenn was the FBI field commander during the 11-day siege at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, which ended in the deaths of Weaver's wife, his 14-year-old son and a deputy U.S. marshal.

Glenn's charges spurred the Justice Department to take a new look at the approval of the special shooting rules used at Ruby Ridge. Five of his bosses were suspended with pay this summer and are under a federal investigation.

Glenn has alleged that top FBI officials concealed from internal investigators the fact that former FBI Deputy Director Larry Potts approved special shooting rules for the agency's snipers at Ruby Ridge. Potts denies approving them.

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