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Pro-government forces in Chad launched a counteroffensive against Libyan troops and their rebel allies in the northern Tibesti region, killing 400 Libyan forces and taking one besieged town, Chad Radio announced Sunday. US officials said that several thousand Libyan soldiers attacked Chad on Saturday. Libyan soldiers and Chadian rebels are fighting against forces loyal to Goukouni Oueddei, a former Chadian rebel whose troops turned against Libya in late October and joined the government of the landlocked African nation.

Front-line states pledge to resist South Africa

President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia opened a summit meeting of southern Africa's front-line states yesterday by pledging support for the governments of Angola and Mozambique, hard-pressed by right-wing rebels. Mr. Kaunda added that the South African government was determined in its destabilization activities in southern Africa but could be defeated through the prudent use of the front-line states' meager resources. Zambian officials said the summit will discuss possible sanctions against South Africa and the campaign to persuade Western countries to apply their own economic measures.

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Pakistani Cabinet resigns as rioting continues

Ethnic rioting in Karachi, Pakistan, has plunged the nation's military-led government into a political crisis with the resignation of the entire Cabinet of Prime Minister Mohammed Khan Junejo. Although a government statement announcing the resignation of the Cabinet Saturday did not directly say the riots prompted the move, it did say the ministers quit after debating the situation to allow Mr. Junejo to form a new Cabinet to deal with the country's problems.

Thousands of troops continued to patrol most of Karachi, and officials said 120 people were arrested Friday and Saturday. Police have arrested 1,027 people since Dec. 14, when riots involving Pushtu-speaking Pathans and Urdu-speaking Mohajirs began.

Reagan calls for more MX, Midgetman missiles

President Reagan, moving to expand modernization of the US nuclear arsenal, decided Friday to step up work on a small, single-warhead missile and also buy 50 more giant MX missiles to be placed on railroad cars and shuttled from base to base in times of crisis. A written White House statement said the small missile, nicknamed the Midgetman, would be mounted on mobile launchers. Air Force Brig. Gen. Charles May, a top official in the modernization program, told reporters that the dministration intended to ask Congress for another 50 of the MX missiles and up to 500 of the Midgetman weapons.

The two missile programs, if approved by Congress, could cost as much as $65 billion and would signal a marked shift in the United States' policy of nuclear deterrence.

AT&T, IBM to reduce work force by 37,000

Two giants of American high technology, AT&T and IBM, have announced plans to slim down in the face of slack business, reducing their work forces by a total of more than 37,000 employees. American Telephone & Telegraph Company said Thursday it would cut up to 27,400 jobs through layoffs, attrition, and other unspecified means. International Business Machines announced that more than 10,000 US employees had accepted early retirement incentives.

Consumer prices up .3%; yearly inflation at 1.3%

Consumer prices rose a modest 0.3 percent in November, with increases in food and automobile costs offsetting lower energy prices, the government reported Friday. With 11 months now in for 1986, analysts said it appears that inflation for the full year will finish at - or be slightly under - 1.3 percent, which would be the lowest annual rate in 22 years. That low figure is due almost entirely to the plunge in world oil prices early this year.

Dissident Tartar released by Soviets

Mustafa Dzhemiliev, a prominent Soviet dissident and associate of dissident physicist Andrei Sakharov, was released over the weekend, according to reports reaching Moscow. Mr. Dzemiliev, a Crimean Tartar leader, joins a growing list of dissidents who have been released or allowed to emigrate. These include Yuri Orlov, Anatoly Shcharansky, and the poet Irina Ratushinskaya. Moreover, the reported personal phone call from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to Dr. Sakharov last week indicates that Mr. Gorbachev feels confident enough to link himself directly to this policy.

The Crimean Tartars have been agitating to return to their native homeland for the last 20 years. In 1944, they had been accused of collaboration with the Germans and deported from the Crimea to Central Asia. Rehabilitated in 1967, they were not allowed to return home.

Sakharov's own return to Moscow tomorrow may be an experiment: The Soviet leadership has already made it clear that they would like him to return to his work at the Academy of Science's Physics Institute. If he does, and if his comments on human rights remain within the bounds of official tolerance, this would be the first example of the successful reintegration of a dissident into mainstream society.

Iran-contra update. More US-Iran contact reported

A report published in the Washington Post yesterday said the United States recently sent messages to Iran seeking improved relations with its government, but the State Department denied the story. The Post, quoting anonymous State Department officials, said the messages were sent in late November or early December and were routed through Switzerland and other governments friendly to Tehran. At least some of the messages were an attempt to discuss US hostages in Lebanon, including the case of ``one American hostage who is reported to be ill,'' said the Post.

In other recent developments:

Church of England envoy Terry Waite plans to return to Lebanon before Christmas in an effort to win the freedom of the remaining US hostages there, his spokeswoman said yesterday.

Vice-President George Bush has said he is ``no longer the front-runner'' in the race for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination because of the Iran-contra controversy. He added, however, ``It's a good position .... It puts me in a feisty political mood.'' Mr. Bush made the comments while flying back from a speech in Iowa, where he called on Lt. Col. Oliver North and Vice-Adm. John Poindexter to waive their constitutional rights if necessary and tell what they know.

Colonel North made a final attempt to free US hostages in Lebanon in late October just days before the Iranian arms deal became public, the Post reported Saturday. According to congressional sources quoted in the story, North, working with an Iranian contact, helicoptered to Cyprus Oct. 31 expecting to receive the hostages, and was disappointed when only one -- David Jacobsen -- was later released.

A lawyer who last week reported that a file on Iranian arms dealer Albert Hakim was taken from his office has found the documents in a San Francisco airport locker after a tip from a telephone caller, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.

The Post disclosed the existence of a taping system in the White House Situation Room, where key meetings leading to the implementation of the Iran arms plan were held. But the White House said later no tapes on the subject were made in the Situation Room.

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