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Engine blast caused crash, official says

A senior Thai official said Friday that he believed an engine explosion, rather than a bomb, had caused an Austrian airliner to crash in Thailand earlier this week. Air Chief Marshal Somboon Rahong also told a news conference that a document was recovered from the pilot's compartment with the word "fire" scrawled in English across the page. He said a circle had been drawn around the word. Somboon said Thai investigators believed that the jetliner had dropped from about 31,000 feet to about 9,000 feet before exploding in the air, which Somboon said supported the idea that a fire had burned for a time before setting fire to fuel on the plane.Opposition limits German troops' role

BERLIN _ The opposition Social Democrats voted Friday to keep strict curbs on German combat troops, blocking Chancellor Helmut Kohl's plans to play a greater role in solving world conflicts. The influential leftist-oriented party said German troops could take part in U.N. peacekeeping missions. But it ruled out German soldiers fighting outside NATO areas, even with the backing of the United Nations.

Akihito to make first overseas trip

TOKYO _ In a move to emphasize the importance that Japan places on its diplomatic relations in Asia, the government announced Friday that Emperor Akihito will make his first overseas trip since he was enthroned, visiting Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia this fall. Never before has a Japanese emperor visited any Asian country. Japanese Imperial Household Agency officials explained the selection of the three countries by citing not only Japan's "close ties" with them but also by saying that "political stability" prevails in each of them.

Canadians under

grip of recession

TORONTO _ Indicators may show the recession-plagued U.S. economy is poised for recovery, but in Canada, often seen as the tail of the American economic dog, the numbers are as grim as ever. A government report Friday said the economy shrank by 0.2 percent in March, with no sign of any improvement soon. That means the Canadian economy has declined at an annual rate of about 6 percent in the first quarter of 1991.

Elsewhere . . .

REYKJAVIK, Iceland _ The International Whaling Commission ended its annual meeting on Friday by approving a plan that is likely to lead to limited commercial hunting after a five-year ban.

MOSCOW _ A bomb ripped through the last car of a passenger train en route from Moscow to the Azerbaijani capital of Baku, killing at least 11 people and injuring eight others, Soviet media reported Friday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

NOWSHERA, Pakistan _ An army ammunition dump on the outskirts of this northern town exploded Friday, showering missiles and bombs for miles around the sparsely populated countryside, an army spokesman said. Hospital officials said that at least five people were killed and another 25 injured in the explosions.

DHAKA, Bangladesh _ Weather officials warned Friday that a fresh storm was brewing in the Bay of Bengal, the origin of last month's cyclone that killed at least 139,000 people. Ports on the bay were asked to post warnings of 2 on a scale of 10.

MUTLANGEN, Germany _ Another Cold War chapter of superpower confrontation closed Friday when the United States shut down its last Pershing-2 intermediate-range missile base in Europe. The U.S. army missile command was the last made inactive under the 1988 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union.