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MIDDLE EASTIsrael has hinted it may accept Washington's latest Middle East peace plan but first wants more details on a Palestinian role. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir told Israel Television, "It's very possible there will be talks in the framework of peace negotiations between us and the Arab world." President Bush wants Israel to respond before he leaves for summit talks in Moscow next week, White House National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft said. EUROPE President Mikhail Gorbachev has fired a salvo at the Soviet Communist Party, the reformist newspaper Nezavisimaya Gazeta said July 23. It published a draft policy program that would effectively turn the 16.5 million-member organization into a social democratic party. The draft affirms citizens' right to inherit farms, opens party ranks to religious believers and defends businessmen, and would place the party firmly in the center of Western politics. Conservative hard-liners are preparing for a showdown J uly 25.

AFRICA President Frederik de Klerk began a two-day informal meeting with government ministers and their deputies July 22 at a secret countryside retreat near Pretoria. They will formulate moves to dispel anger over its secret funding of the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party, chief rival of Nelson Mandela's African National Congress. They are expected to ratify their decisions at a formal Cabinet meeting in Pretoria July 24.... President Mobutu Sese Seko has divided his political opponents and stunned Zaire by a ppointing his main critic as prime minister. Some rival Zairean opposition leaders angrily rejected Mobutu's dramatic move July 22 in naming Etienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba to lead the government.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC Ministers of the Association of South East Asian Nations told US Secretary of State James Baker III in a closed-door meeting in Kuala Lumpur July 23 the group was ready to study a Japanese proposal to use ASEAN's annual post-ministerial conference (PMC), with its seven dialogue partners, as a forum for regional security. ASEAN - Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, and Thailand - said it would take its time considering this proposal. ASEAN was holding the three-day PMC with its dialog ue partners, the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the European Community, and South Korea. China and the Soviet Union have asked to be included in the PMC.... Police launched a crackdown July 23 on a huge illegal gambling scheme in Taiwan that had a turnover of up to $1 billion a day. Police raided 31 finance companies and questioned more than 40 people about the gambling racket, which was based on the island's stock market. The racket's turnover may rival that of the stock market itself, official s said.

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