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Bell Atlantic, AirTouch talk of a "combination'

Bell Atlantic Corp. confirmed late Sunday that it is holding talks with AirTouch Communications Inc., the nation's second-largest cellular phone company, relating to a "possible business combination."

Bell Atlantic spokesman Jim Gerace declined to elaborate on what kind of combination was being discussed, nor would he comment on a possible timetable. AirTouch confirmed that talks were taking place, but also did not elaborate.

New York-based Bell Atlantic this summer agreed to merge with GTE Corp. in a $64-billion deal that would allow the companies to create a huge provider of all-in-one services, including long distance, local calling and wireless services.

CNBC said GTE of Stamford, Conn., has already agreed to the AirTouch deal, which would be completed before the Bell Atlantic-GTE deal closes.

San Francisco-based AirTouch, a spinoff of former Baby Bell Pacific Telesis Group, ranks behind only AT&T Corp. among U.S. cellular phone companies. The company has 14-million cellular subscribers in the United States, as well as fast-growing international operations.

Newsweek's bin Laden

vs. Time's bin Laden

NEW YORK _ The exiled Saudi millionaire accused by U.S. officials of masterminding two embassy bombings in Africa is sending mixed messages about his role, telling one U.S. magazine he did not order the attacks and another that he "instigated" them.

The interviews published in the Jan. 11 issues of Newsweek and Time and released over the weekend were conducted last month by Pakistani reporters who had received clandestine invitations to Osama bin Laden's mountain base in Afghanistan.

Bin Laden has previously denied involvement in the bombings, and repeated that denial in the Newsweek interview, conducted Dec. 22. "I did not order them but was very glad for what happened to the Americans there," he said.

The next day, Dec. 23, he told Time's reporter that he had "instigated" the attacks _ the closest he has come to admitting personal involvement.

Elsewhere . . .

BOYS' BODIES FOUND: The bodies of two teenage boys who were killed in a Utah avalanche while snowboarding were found early Sunday. The boys, whose names were not released, were reported missing late Saturday by their fathers, Sanpete County sheriff's dispatcher Jody Pace said.

Officials said the boys, 16 and 17 years old, were buried in a snowdrift that broke loose and descended 150 feet in Fairview Canyon, about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City.

4 SHOT AT RESTAURANT: A gunman opened fire in a crowded Portland, Ore., restaurant early Sunday, sending at least four people to the hospital. Police spokesman Henry Groepper said a man stormed into a private party at the Great Wall of China restaurant about 2:30 a.m.

One victim, a 19-year-old woman, was pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl at a hospital. The mother was listed in critical condition.

EXPLOSIVES UNDER STUDY: Authorities are still trying to determine the intended use of explosives materials found in the home and San Francisco workplace of a utility worker, who was arrested Thursday on three charges of possessing illegal explosives. District Attorney Terence Hallinan said the five 50-pound bags of ammonium nitrate, the 33-gallon barrel of calcium nitrate, bomb-making books and other explosive devices point to fireworks manufacturing.

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