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The worst pileup of emergency food grain of the African famine is about to clog Port Sudan. It comes at a time when the need for grain in remote inland areas has never been greater. Almost 10 million people do not have enough food in Sudan.

Ships carrying 240,000 tons of United States government grain will arrive there in the next five days, United Nations officials report -- enough to feed 16 million people for a month, or 1.3 million for a year.

But it can't be unloaded right away.

Recommended: Five reasons to care about the Sudan - South Sudan conflict

Average waiting time at Port Sudan is 12 days. If the grain could be unloaded it would collide with a backlog ahead of it: 237,000 tons of grain unloaded and awaiting transfer, plus 190,000 tons in ships at anchor.

``So we're talking about 240,000 tons piling on top of 427,000 tons,'' says an official with the UN relief coordinating agency, the World Food Program, in Rome.

Another obstacle to grain movements is the rail line from Kosti westward to Nyala in Sudan.

Not only is the line failing to carry enough relief grain to some 3 million people in remote areas, but also almost half the grain hauled last week vanished before arrival at Nyala. Some 6,000 tons left Nyala but only 3,430 tons reached the other end.

Why?

``Use your imagination,'' said a UN official, indicating corruption or theft or both.

Soviets, Chinese sign deal meant to double their trade

The Soviet Union and China signed a $14 billion deal Wednesday intended to double trade and help modernize Chinese industry. The new accords were signed by Chinese Vice-Premier Yao Yilin and Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Arkhipov, who worked out the details during a visit to Peking last year.

The Tass news agency said the 1986-90 trade and payments deal called for total exchanges of around $14 billion. Annual exchanges would rise to $3.5 billion in 1990, almost double the 1985 figure, it said.

Admiral picked to head Joint Chiefs of Staff

President Reagan will nominate Adm. William J. Crowe Jr., commander of US forces in the Pacific, to become chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, White House officials said Wednesday. The Joint Chiefs of Staff is composed of the top commanders of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, who advise the President on military policy.

Admiral Crowe's nomination is expected to be announced this week.

House OKs $5 million aid to rebels in Kampuchea

The House approved $5 million in open aid for noncommunist rebels in Kampuchea (Cambodia). The Democratic-controlled House voted the funds 288 to 122 as an amendment to the 1986-87 foreign aid bill, despite critics who warned it could lead to ``another Vietnam.''

Senate bill easing purchase of guns faces hurdle in House

The Senate passed a bill Tuesday night that would weaken federal gun control laws. The bill, passed 79 to 15, revises a 1968 law barring interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition. It would allow a resident of one state to buy a gun in another state in person as long as the sale did not violate the laws of either state. The bill now goes to the House, where it faces strong opposition, especially in the House Judiciary Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation.

18 nations agree to cut sulfur dioxide emissions

Government representatives of 18 European nations and Canada agreed to a 30 percent reduction by 1993 of sulfur dioxide emissions. The emissions are believed to be the cause of acid rain. The United States, Britain and Poland, officially listed among the biggest air polluters, abstained from signing the agreement, which would carry out of the goals of the 1979 Geneva Convention on Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution, made in 1979.

Military copters join fight against fires in the West

Military helicopters hauled water and firefighters for a combined air-ground assault Wednesday on more than a thousand wildfires that have marched across more than 1 million acres of Western brush, timber, and range. A 75,000-acre San Luis Obispo, Calif., fire that started July 1 was 100 percent contained Wednesday as nearly 2,000 firefighters worked to light backfires to burn 10,000 acres along scenic Highway 101 near Santa Margarita.

Voice recorder recovered from Air-India loss site

Salvage teams have recovered the cockpit voice recorder of the Air-India jet that plunged into the Atlantic June 23, killing all 329 people on board, Air-India said Tuesday. The French salvage ship Leon Thevenin picked up the voice recorder with a remote-controlled submarine.

The airline said that the search would continue for the plane's digital flight data recorder.

Texas' no-pass, no-play rule for school sports is upheld

A state rule barring high school students from sports or other extracurricular activities if they are failing any course was upheld Wednesday by the Texas Supreme Court. The unanimous opinion overruled a Houston district judge who had said the no-pass, no-play rule was unconstitutional and could not be enforced.

Sri Lanka planning to free rebel suspects, end curfew

The Sri Lankan government said Wednesday it plans to free 600 Tamil guerrilla suspects and lift a night curfew in troubled Northern Province for the first time in eight months. The announcement eased tension in the Tamil-populated provincial capital of Jaffna, which had been rocked for two days by demonstrations against secret peace talks between Tamil separatists and the Sri Lankan government in Bhutan.

Inspected watermelons back in California stores

State inspectors, checking thousands of watermelons for a pesticide believed responsible for 287 illnesses in five states, allowed stickered fruit to return to emptied stores Wednesday. Watermelon growers whose crops pass the latest tests will be asked to declare that they have not used an aldicarb pesticide in the past 12 months, and officials said that violators would be subject to $100,000 fines for perjury.

Koch announces new curbs on New York City water use

Mayor Edward Koch announced new restrictions Wednesday on water use in New York City in the face of a severe drought that is expected to worsen. Gov. Mario Cuomo was also expected to issue an executive order Wednesday declaring New York City and its suburban counties a disaster area because of the drought problems, a Cuomo spokesman said.

CorrectionCorrection for 7/9

Because of a proofreading lapse in the the July 9 paper, the last line was inadvertently dropped from a Page 18 article on Peterborough, N.H., headlined `` `Our Town' in our times.'' The final paragraph should have read: ``To that degree, perhaps, the observation of the stage manager in `Our Town' holds true.''

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