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Russians offer to sell, lease spacecraft

A top Russian space official went to Capitol Hill on Friday with an intriguing offer: the chance for the United States to buy or lease the most sophisticated Russian spacecraft and rockets at bargain prices.

Yuri Semenov, general director of NPO Energia, the Russians' civilian manned space program, invited U.S. officials to lease room aboard the Mir space station, orbiting 240 miles above Earth, to conduct experiments. He also promised a warm welcome for U.S. technicians studying the feasibility of acquiring the Soyuz-TM spacecraft as an emergency escape vehicle for the planned U.S. space station Freedom.

In addition, Semenov dangled for sale the Russians' most powerful rocket, the Energia, which exceeds the lifting capacity of any U.S. launch vehicle. And he outlined a dazzling list of projects the United States and the former Soviet Union might one day jointly undertake, including diverting radiation from the atmosphere with huge solar mirrors and patching up the Earth's punctured ozone layer.

Cease-fire fails: Armenian and Azeri gunmen pounded each other with artillery in the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh Friday, ignoring a cease-fire agreement. The enclave's Armenian majority appealed for a U.N. peace-keeping force. Dead and wounded were reported on both sides.

Saudis seek influence: Saudi Arabia has established diplomatic ties with Uzbekistan, one of the newly independent Central Asian republics once part of the Soviet Union, in a move to blunt Iran's diplomatic offensive to win influence in that Islamic region.

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