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MIDDLE EASTUnited States Secretary of State James Baker III flew to Cairo for talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak yesterday in his final attempts to arrange the long-anticipated peace talks sometime late this month between Israel and the Arabs. The PLO Central Council will meet in Tunis Wednesday to decide its stance on such talks. Syria has told the US that it does not intend to participate in the regional phase of the planned Middle East peace talks. The US has crafted a three-phase plan for the talks, an d under the regional part, Arab nations would negotiate with Israel about such topics as arms control, economic development, and water rights.... A representative of an Islamic fundamentalist group, Hizbullah of Palestine, said yesterday the organization had kidnapped an Israeli soldier. ECONOMY AND BUSINESS The Interim Committee of the International Monetary Fund, the world financial agency's policymaking body, said yesterday in Bangkok that it expected a moderate economic recovery for the world's economy and lower inflation in 1992.... In Seattle, Microsoft Corporation reported that its fiscal first-quarter earnings jumped 64 percent to $144 million from $87.6 million a year ago.

JUSTICE Two American brothers sentenced in Pakistan to have a hand and foot amputated for a bank robbery they denied committing were both cleared of all charges yesterday. Neither Daniel nor Charles Boyd, who are Muslim converts, was in court to hear the verdict of the three-judge bench of the Supreme Appellate Court, but they were expected to be freed from Peshawar's Central Jail later in the day.

EUROPE Bulgaria's former Communist Party lost its four-decade grip on power in multiparty elections Sunday, early results showed yesterday. It was overtaken by the main anticommunist Union of Democratic Forces, which won 36 percent of the vote while the formerly communist Bulgarian Socialist Party took around 32 percent.... The Soviet Union says it will immediately reduce its military forces by a third on the Kurile Islands, disputed between Japan and Moscow. There are now about 8,000 Soviet troops on the four islands.

ASIA China loses more than 40 million tons of grain every year because of poor storage and transportation facilities, a "great waste" amounting to more than 10 percent of the predicted 1991 harvest, an official report said yesterday. The figures coincided with a national appeal to conserve grain and cut food losses that were caused by disastrous flooding during the summer.

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