The former Soviet Union had "hundreds of tons" of anthrax bacteria and lesser amounts of the smallpox and plague viruses ready to launch in the 1980s by missile in case of a world war, a high-level defector revealed on USA prime-time TV last night.

Dr Kanatjan Alibekov, who was second-in-command of a branch of the Soviet biological weapons programme before he defected to the United States in 1992, said he believes a vestige of the Cold War-era programme still exists in Russia under the guise of defensive research.

"They continue to do research to develop new biological agents," says Alibekov. "They conduct research and explain it as being for defensive purposes."

In Russia, Alibekov's allegations were denied by Oleg Ignatyev, top expert on biological weapons with the presidential Committee for Chemical and Biological Disarmament. "

* Clinton invokes executive privilege: President Clinton is invoking executive privilege to keep key Oval Office talks out of special counsel Kenneth Starr's courtroom.

According to ABC News, Clinton confidante Bruce Lindsey last week refused to answer prosecutors' questions about conversations he had with the president regarding the president's alleged affair with Monica Lewinsky. Instead, he claimed executive privilege - the president's right to confidential deliberations.

It is not known whether Lindsey is refusing to answer questions about advise he may have given Clinton, or on facts he may have about the president's relationship with Lewinsky, a former White House intern. If Lindsey is refusing to divulge factual information, that may be harder to defend. Prosecutors fear, however, that the White House may be holding the cards in this dispute, in part because they believe Lindsey has information no one else can provide.

* Princess to 'go home' after stroke: Princess Margaret, the sister to the British Queen, was due to fly home to England yesterday on a scheduled British Airways flight from the West Indies once doctors have confirmed her condition has stabilised following a mild stroke.

Last-minute tests were being carried out on Wednesday on the 67-year-old princess at a private clinic in Barbados to check if she was well enough for the long flight back to Britain.

The Queen's sister, who fell ill while on holiday in Mustique, was said to be "-resting comfortably". Tests have confirmed that Margaret has suffered no serious paralysis, but specialists have warned that the high life is over and that she now faces a hugely increased risk of a more serious stroke within the next 12 months or so.

* Mossad head quits: The head of the Mossad, Israel's intelligence agency, resigned this week, apparently under heavy pressure from within the agency to accept responsibility for the bungled attack on a top Palestinian militant in Jordan last autumn.

Danny Yatom, a former army general who took charge of the Mossad in June 1996, remained adamant in his resignation letter that he had been unfairly criticised by a government commission investigating an attempt to assassinate the political leader of the militant Islamic organisation Hamas. The three-man panel concluded last week that Yatom had "-erred in his handling of the operation" to assassinate Khaled Meshal. One commission member recommended that Yatom be dismissed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was fully cleared by the commission of any blame for the fiasco, said last week that he would "-think very closely" before deciding whether to take action against Yatom or any other officer.

* Bikini-clad intruder interrupts draw:A scantily-clad woman shocked organisers of the UK's midweek National Lottery draw when she ran on to the set as the event was about to begin. The woman, wearing a mauve bikini, put an arm around former jackpot winner Penny Haig, who was starting the draw, and was ushered gently away by Clothes Show presenter Tim Vincent.

Something appeared to be written on the lower half of her bikini but the purpose of the intrusion was not immediately clear.

* Asian crash hits colleges: British universities stand to lose millions of pounds a year in fees from Southeast Asian students hit by the region's economic collapse.

A survey of 27 admissions offices found all but two are predicting a drop in applications as potential students find they can no longer afford a degree course in the UK.

Most are anticipating a 25% reduction in the number of applications for courses starting in September, but 10 of the institutions surveyed are bracing themselves for a fall of between 50% and 75%.

Altogether the universities surveyed fear they will lose £33 million of overseas fees. Nationwide the figure could rise to more than £130 million.

Source: Flight Daily News