News In Brief

The Kremlin is charging that the United States is ``undermining'' the treaties that prevent an all-out nuclear arms race. The claim was part of a sharp reaction to President Reagan's qualified decision to continue adhering to SALT II. It came in an official statement by Tass, the Soviet news agency, that bore the unmistakable imprimatur of the ruling Communist Party Politburo. It was also read at a hastily arranged press conference by Kremlin spokesman Vladimir Lomeiko, underscoring the importance that the Soviet leadership attached to it.

On Monday, Mr. Reagan called for ``mutual restraint'' by both superpowers while new arms accords were negotiated. His call was relayed to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in a letter delivered here Monday.

The Kremlin waited just one day before questioning the President's motives.

``It is a dangerous misapprehension,'' the statement warned, to be ``deluded'' into believing that the Kremlin will allow the US to determine which treaty obligations to observe and which to abandon.

At the same time, the Kremlin denied that it was violating SALT II -- as the Reagan administration has claimed. Moscow was reacting to Reagan's announcement Monday that he will order the dismantling of a Poseidon submarine, along with its nuclear missiles, to avoid going over the 1,200-missile limit imposed by SALT II.

The treaty has never been ratified by the US, but both countries have agreed to abide by it. Reagan, however, repeated charges that the Soviets are violating the agreement. Specifically, he cited the development of the SS-X-25 mobile missile, which he said was not allowed under the treaty. But Tass claimed that the missile is merely a modernized version of the old SS-13 missile, a move that Moscow says is permitted under the treaty.

Moreover, the statement alleged that the US is itself preparing to violate the treaty by deploying MX and Midgetman missiles.

That would be only the latest step down a ``long trail'' of treaty violations, the statement charged, including the deployment of new US missiles in Europe and research into space-based weapons systems.

Journalists on defunct papers in S. Africa to issue a weekly

Six South African journalists from newspapers closed in April will band together to produce a new weekly paper, a member of the new paper's editorial board, Anton Harber, said Tuesday. Mr. Harber, former political reporter of the Rand Daily Mail, said that the first issue of the Weekly Mail would appear Friday and that it would aim to fill a gap left by the demise of the Rand Daily Mail, considered the leading anti-apartheid voice in the country.

US and 2 East-bloc countries conduct prisoner exchange

The US freed four Eastern Europeans charged with espionage in exchange for 25 Eastern Europeans held prisoner in East Germany and Poland, a US spokesman said Tuesday. US officials in Washington said the four Eastern Europeans they released had been held on espionage charges. They did not say what offenses had caused the imprisonment in East Germany and Poland of the 25 other Eastern European nationals. No American citizens were involved in the prisoner exchange.

Court to reconsider ruling that reinstated Mobil libel

In a case that may alter longstanding libel standards for the news media, the US Court of Appeals agreed to reconsider a lower-court jury ruling that the Washington Post libeled former Mobil Oil Corporation president William P. Tavoulareas. The case concerns a 1979 Post article about his business dealings. In taking the case, the appeals court vacated almost all of the April findings of a three-member panel, which had reinstated a jury libel award against the Post, an award that was reversed by a trial court judge as excessive.

Representatives of the media said at the time that freedom-of-the-press guarantees under the First Amendment were ``chilled'' by Senior Judge George E. MacKinnon's ruling that a jury could find actual malice on the Post's part by considering evidence that the newspaper ``seeks, among other things, hard-hitting investigative stories.''

Reagan says he's exploring possible Nicaraguan talks

President Reagan, seeking to enlist the support of wavering Democrats for aid to Nicaraguan rebels, said Tuesday he is starting discussions aimed at determining ``how and when the US could resume useful direct talks with Nicaragua.'' In a letter to a congressional delegation, Mr. Reagan said he planned to consult with governments in the region about the possibility of talks with the Sandinista government. The discussions would include the four Contadora countries -- Mexico, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica -- which have proposed the outline of a regional settlement, and the Nicaraguan opposition.

Attempt to kill Pope ordered by Soviet Embassy, Agca says

Mehmet Ali Agca told a court Tuesday that his 1981 attempt on the life of Pope John Paul II was ordered by the Soviet Embassy in Sofia, the Bulgarian capital. Mr. Agca said that he and the Gray Wolves, a Turkish right-wing terrorist group, acted with the ``determining complicity of three Bulgarians in Rome.'' The three are the Bulgarian defendants in the current papal plot trial.

Agca claimed ``the first secretary'' of the Soviet Embassy in Sofia paid $1 million to Musa Serdar Celebi, one of the five Turkish defendants in the current trial. Agca said Mr. Celebi received the money through Bekir Celenk, another defendant, who is now in Sofia.

Mediation panel named in N.Y.C. hotel strike

The head of the State Mediation Board has appointed a five-member panel to recommend ways to end the strike that entered its 11th day today at 53 Manhattan hotels. Owners and union negotiators left a four-hour bargaining session Monday disagreeing on whether they had made progress toward ending the walkout, which began June 1.

Walesa testifies for three being tried over Solidarity

Solidarity chairman Lech Walesa, called as a prosecution witness in the trial of three senior activists of the banned trade union, asserted the innocence of the defendants in testimony Monday. Mr. Walesa was permitted to make statements defending Solidarity's ideals for which the three accused have been repeatedly attacked during the trial.

Soviets reject joint practice for space rescue, NASA says

The Soviet Union has firmly rejected President Reagan's offer for a practice space-rescue mission in which astronauts and cosmonauts would visit each other's ships, a top NASA official said Tuesday. ``They turned us down, flat, without explanation,'' the official said. Until now, the administration has said the Soviets had responded only that the time was not ripe for discussing such a mission.

CorrectionCorrection for June 6

On Page 40 of the June 6 issue, the Monitor published an inaccurate United Press International caption that described a building as housing an ``Israeli test reactor.'' It in fact houses a particle accelerator. The accelerator, at the Weizmann Institute of Sciences, is unrelated to research into nuclear energy or nuclear weapons.

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