News In Brief

Barclays Bank, in the largest withdrawal yet by a British firm, is selling its remaining interest in its South African subsidiary because of financial pressure and anti-apartheid protests, the bank said yesterday. South African bank executives announced the British company would sell its 40.4 percent stake in Barclays National Bank of South Africa - the country's biggest commercial bank - to a consortium of South African firms.

In London, Barclays spokesman Geoffrey Kelly said the divestment was due mainly to the poor performance of Barclays National Bank of South Africa and unfavorable prospects for the South African economy as a whole. Anti-apartheid protests also played a role, he said. Demonstrators in Britain have protested outside branches, and bank officials have been harassed because of the South African links.

Afghan council member named to replace Karmal

Haji Muhammad Chamkani has been named acting leader of the Afghan Revolutionary Council to replace Babrak Karmal, who last week resigned from government and party posts, Afghan diplomats said yesterday. Mr. Chamkani is one of a number of vice-presidents of the Revolutionary Council, the highest organ of the Afghan state. The president of the council is the titular head of state. The diplomats said it was possible that Chamkani might be named president, but that he had not yet been nominated for the post.

Revlon withdraws bid to take over Gillette

Cosmetics giant Revlon Corporation has scrapped its attempt to seize control of the Gillette Company, which will pay $549 million to buy back all the Gillette stock that Revlon accumulated, the razormaker announced yesterday. A brief statement issued by Gillette said it repurchased 9.2 million of its shares from Revlon for $59.50 a share and agreed to reimburse Revlon $9 million for its expenses in trying to assume control of Gillette.

Under the agreement, Revlon has also agreed that it will not purchase Gillette stock for 10 years, and Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc., Revlon's investment bankers in the takeover attempt, also agreed not to finance the acquisition of Gillette stock for three years. The agreement also calls for the companies to dismiss all lawsuits pending between them stemming from the takeover attempt.

Former dictator Bokassa to undergo brutality trial

The public trial of former Central African Republic dictator Jean-Bedel Bokassa on charges ranging from treason to murder and cannibalism is expected to open tomorrow in a sports stadium in the Central African capital Bangui. Mr. Bokassa headed what was widely regarded as one of Africa's most brutal tyrannies in the former French colony from 1965 to 1979 and fled to France after he was ousted in a coup. He returned voluntarily from exile in France for still undetermined reasons on Oct. 23 and was immediately imprisoned.

GATT agenda: Japan tax, embargo on Nicaragua

A US trade embargo against Nicaragua and a European Community charge that Japan unfairly taxes foreign liquor are expected to dominate the annual General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) meeting that opened in Geneva Monday. Nicaragua is expected to renew a protest that the trade embargo, imposed by President Reagan in May 1985, violates GATT rules. Washington has argued the action does not violate the rules because it is intended to protect US national security.

On Friday, the GATT Council discussed a complaint by the European Community that Japan imposed discriminatory taxes on foreign wines and liquors. Japan's delegate rejected the charge.

Westerners in Berlin tip Soviets on terror threats

Allied authorities in West Berlin have begun passing a list of names to the Soviet Embassy in East Berlin of foreign diplomats based there who they fear could be involved in terrorism, according to a Western diplomatic source. The diplomats involved are largely from the Middle East, he said. The lists are part of a general tightening of security measures in East and West Berlin aimed at limiting the danger of cross-border subversion, according to the Western diplomatic source. East German as well as Soviet bodies have been cooperating in the actions.

Soviet officials have accepted notes from the Allied protecting powers - the United States, Britain, and France - singling out diplomats in East Berlin and have indicated they would act to stop any subversion against West Berlin.

Son of Singapore premier wins high policy position

The son of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew was elected to the ruling party's highest policymaking body, the Straits Times, a Singapore newspaper, reported yesterday. The election was seen as the strongest indication yet that he was being groomed to succeed his father. Lee Hsien Loong, the prime minister's son and acting trade and industry minister, was among 14 people elected to the Central Executive Committee of the People's Action Party on Sunday, the newspaper reported.

North Sea about as dirty now as in '70s, report says

The Rhine and other large rivers dump only slightly less toxic pollution into the North Sea than in the 1970s and the threat of irreparable damage to marine life remains undiminished, a West German report issued yesterday said. The Research Ministry, in a study of toxic pollution of North Sea waters, said only levels of the pesticide DDT had declined significantly since 1976.

According to the ministry, recent chemical spills into the Rhine by Swiss and West German companies will make very little difference to the overall problem in the North Sea.

Austria may get coalition

Austrian Chancellor Franz Vranitzky's Socialists had significant losses but remained the strongest party in parliamentary elections that could lead to a coalition of his party and the conservatives. Unofficial results from Sunday's national elections showed the Socialists lost 10 seats for a total of 80, while the conservative Austrian People's Party fell to 76 seats, a loss of 5.

The center-right Freedom Party gained six seats for 18, the best showing in its 30-year history. The environmentalist Greens, running for the first time and riding a wave of concern because of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, won nine seats in the 183-member parliament. Voters appeared to show disaffection with the centrism of the two major parties.

The elections were called five months early after the Socialists broke off a coalition with the Freedom Party when right-wing nationalist J"org Haider became its leader in September.

According to Austrian tradition, Mr. Vranitzky will be asked by President Kurt Waldheim to form a new government. He indicated he favored a coalition with the People's Party, which would demand some policy concessions and other changes.

In a television interview, People's Party leader Alois Mock left open the possibility of forming a coalition with the Freedom Party.

``I am prepared to speak with every party,'' Mr. Mock said. ``I have not ruled out any variant, although I have always had a preference for broad cooperation,'' he said, alluding to a coalition with the Socialists.

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