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ECONOMY AND BUSINESS

The number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell by 5,000 in late October to the lowest level in more than two years, the government reported yesterday.... Japan's trade surplus in October soared by more than 50 percent, embarrassing Tokyo officials who want to improve ties with the US.... Ford Motor Co. yesterday elevated three of its executives, apparently setting in place the management team that will take over when chairman Harold Poling retires. UNITED STATES

Attorney General William Barr is weighing a formal request by Senate Republicans to seek a court-appointed independent counsel to investigate whether an Oct. 30 Iran-contra indictment by prosecutor Lawrence Walsh was timed to embarrass President Bush in the closing days of the election campaign.... EUROPE AND MIDDLE EAST

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Guns were silent in the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, early yesterday, but flames reportedly raged in one of the government's last strongholds in the north, where a new cease-fire was expected to be most sorely tested.... About 1,350 women deacons in the Church of England will become eligible for ordination if, as expected, Parliament and Queen Elizabeth II ratify the General Synod's decision Wednesday to allow female priests.... Israel walked out of talks in Canada on Middle East refugees Wednesday, refusi ng to sit in the same room as the head of the Palestinian delegation, Mohammad Hallaj, a member of the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian parliament-in-exile. But Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday he would meet Egyptian leaders in Cairo Sunday to try to break the deadlock.

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