News In Brief

The chairman of Sri Lanka's ruling United National Party and three others were shot dead yesterday by a gunman suspected of belonging to a Sinhalese rebel group opposed to the island's peace pact with India. Police said Harsha Abeywardene was shot close to his home in Colombo's Wellawatte district. Mr. Abeywardene's bodyguard, the driver and his servant, traveling in the car, were also killed.

Hijacker of KLM jet releases passengers, crew

A KLM airliner with 97 people aboard was hijacked on the Amsterdam to Milan route and landed yesterday at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport, where the hijacker released the plane's passengers and crew unharmed, officials and the ANSA news agency said. The sole hijacker, who was believed to be a Dutch teen-ager of Italian origin, released all of the 91 passengers aboard the plane two hours after the 737 landed, according to ANSA news reports.

An airline official said the plane had been hijacked by a man who initially demanded $1 million in exchange for release of the hostages.

IRA leader killed by car bomb

The slaying of a key Protestant paramilitary leader by the outlawed Irish Republican Army could lead to reprisals and an increase in violence during the usually quiet Christmas period, authorities said. The leader, John McMichael, was killed Tuesday in a car bomb explosion. The explosion occurred outside his home in Lisburn.

Haiti candidates call for pressure against junta

Leading presidential candidates in the election canceled by widespread violence urged friendly nations Tuesday to pressure the military-run junta to resign, but not to overthrow it by force. Marc Bazin, Louis Dejoie, Sylvio Claude, and Gerard Gourgue asked for help from the US, Canada, France, and friendly Caribbean governments.

North pardon was sought, newspaper reports

The attorney for former National Security Council aide Lt. Col. Oliver North sought a presidential pardon for his client during a meeting with a White House official last January, The Washington Post reported yesterday. The request for a pardon was made in a meeting between Brendan Sullivan and David Abshire, then the special counselor to the president coordinating Iran-Contra strategy for the White House. Mr. Abshire told the Post that the thrust of Mr. Sullivan's presentation was that Colonel North deserved a pardon because he was ``a man trying to do his duty, serving the President.''

Liberian tanker reported to have been hit by Iran

An Iranian frigate attacked a Liberian tanker in the southern Gulf, slamming a missile into the ship as it sailed in ballast for Saudi Arabia, shipping sources said yesterday. There were no reports of casualties and the vessel was proceeding under its own power to Bahrain in the central Gulf, they said. The attack came after Iraqi warplanes launched a long-range raid on Iran's Larak island terminal at the mouth of the Gulf, hitting four tankers.

Postmaster announces effects of budget cuts

Cancellation of three-fourths of 1988 construction projects and closing of some post offices for at least the next two Saturdays were announced yesterday by Postmaster General Preston Tisch. Mr. Tisch said the cuts in spending were required by the approved federal budget-cutting legislation, which calls for a $1.25 billion reduction in postal spending.

Protesters in Bangladesh seek ouster of Ershad

Opposition leaders said yesterday their campaign to oust President Hussain Muhammad Ershad had shattered the nation's economy and would continue until Mr. Ershad resigns. About 40 people were injured in a clash between protesters and police in northwestern Bangladesh. Separately, finance Minister Muhammad Syeduzzama resigned from Ershad's Cabinet, according to sources in the governing Jatiya Party. Mr. Syeduzzama resigned on personal grounds, sources said.

Protest mixes with Christmas spirit in Seoul

Christmas shoppers fled tear gas and gasoline bombs yesterday when hundreds of students and dissidents clashed with riot police in central Seoul, eyewitnesses said. The demonstrators were protesting the alleged rigging of South Korea's presidential elections. Separately, President-elect Roh Tae Woo repeated his promise to give up the presidency if he lost a public vote of confidence after the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Moscow reports new offensive in Afghanistan

Afghan government forces supported by Soviet troops have launched a new offensive against Muslim rebels in a bid to lift the siege of the eastern town of Khost, a Soviet spokesman said yesterday. Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady Gerasimov said the offensive started Monday after the rebels failed to heed an ultimatum to withdraw from the road between Khost and Gardez, 50 miles to the southwest.

Gerasimov said 1,500 rebels had been killed or wounded since the offensive started.

US urges check on 737 jet engine mounts

Pilots should inspect engine mounts closely for possible cracking on hundreds of Boeing 737 aircraft, according to federal aviation officials Tuesday who investigated an incident in which an engine fell off a USAir jet during flight. The National Transportation Safety Board said the engine separated from the USAir plane shortly after the flight departed the Philadelphia airport because of cracking caused by metal fatigue in one of the three bolts holding the engine in place.

Mozambique reports delay in food-aid delivery

Deliveries of international food aid to Mozambique to help millions of people affected by drought have fallen behind schedule, the government says. A report released Tuesday on relief operations this year by Mozambique's National Executive Emergency Commission said delays in bringing in corn, the staple food, had led to a critical situation in Inhambane, one of Mozambique's 10 provinces.

2 Solidarity supporters freed from Polish prison

Two supporters of Poland's outlawed Solidarity trade-union movement who were serving long jail terms for killing a policeman have been freed early for good behavior, the Justice Ministry said yesterday. A Ministry spokesman said that Robert Chechlacz, jailed for 10 years, and Tomasz Lupanow, jailed for seven years, were conditionally released last week after serving more than half their respective terms.

For the record

The owners of a Philippine ferry that sank with the possible loss of 2,000 lives filed a complaint yesterday, saying the tragedy occured because their vessel was rammed by an oil tanker. The IRS said Tuesday no taxpayer would be penalized for having too little in taxes withheld from their paychecks this year.

President Reagan Tuesday signed legislation to prevent immigration officials from barring foreigners because of their political beliefs.

The Christian Science Monitor will not be published on Dec. 25, a national holiday in the United States.

A headline in last Thursday's News in Brief incorrectly identified John McMichael as a leader of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. Mr. McMichael was a key Protestant paramilitary leader who was slain by the IRA.

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