News In Brief

Taiwanese President Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, whose family has headed the Chinese Nationalist government for more than 50 years, assured the National Assembly Wednesday that the next president will be elected as stipulated by the Constitution. Mr. Chaing said there was no possibility he would be succeeded by either a relative or a military government.

Chiang succeeded his father as President in 1978 and was elected in 1984 to a second six-year term. His health recently has become an issue.

China, Britain urge Soviets to pull out of Afghanistan

China's Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, urged the Soviet Union yesterday to withdraw its troops unconditionally from Afghanistan, declaring that the Soviets' six-year occupation has resulted in a military stalemate. And in London, British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe also called on the Soviet Union to set a firm timetable for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Lebanese militias reported to agree on armistice

State-run Beirut radio said yesterday that Lebanon's three most powerful militias had reached agreement on a peace pact designed to end the 10-year-old civil war and will sign it before year's end. The breakthrough was confirmed by spokesmen for Druze leader Walid Jumblatt's Progressive Socialist Party, Justice Minister Nabih Berri's Shiite Amal movement and the Lebanese Forces Christian militia.

No details of the accord have been released.

Congress reports economic erosion of families

The economic well-being of families with children has worsened dramatically since 1973, in part because of the increase in single parents -- usually women, according to a report by the congressional Joint Economic Committee. Families with children now account for 53.3 percent of the nation's population, down from 61.5 percent, but their share of total national income since 1973 has fallen 19 percent, from 40.2 percent to 32.6 percent.

US court finds religious intent in school `silence' law

A US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia ruled Tuesday that a 1982 law requiring a ``moment of silence'' was enacted with a religious purpose, violating the constitutional separation of church and state.

Ford grant to help colleges improve and recruit teachers

The Ford Foundation has announced it will grant a total of $4.75 million to as many as 39 colleges to improve their curricula and help recruit teachers. The grants, to be awarded over the next two years, were spurred in part by a recent survey by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching showing that 21 percent of college teachers believe they made a mistake in choosing their career.

Israel says it won't talk to kidnappers of non-Israelis

Israeli Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir, reacting to the murder of a Beirut Jew by Muslims seeking revenge on Israel, has said Israel will not negotiate with guerrillas who seize non-Israeli Jews. Beirut police on Wednesday found the body of Haim Cohen Halala, a Beirut Jew. An underground Shiite Muslim group claimed responsibility and said he was executed in retaliation for Israeli shelling of south Lebanon villages.

Peru threatens takeover of US oil firms in tax dispute

Peruvian President Alan Garcia threatened to take over the operations of three US oil companies yesterday unless they agree to invest more and pay higher taxes. Peru suspended the contracts of the companies -- Occidental and Belco and a joint US-Argentine consortium -- last August over a tax dispute and gave them until midnight last night to negotiate new contracts.

And on Christmas Day, Peruvian police arrested 1,000 people in a sweep through Lima suburbs after Maoist guerrillas blacked out an Andean city, blew up seven vehicles and dynamited a statue, police said.

Peking, Moscow formally announce plane hijacking

China and the Soviet Union finally issued official statements Wednesday that a Soviet airliner had been hijacked to China last week, and that the passengers and crew were safely returned to the Soviet Union. The plane was thought to have been carrying about 50 passengers and crew members on a flight to North Korea. Neither the fate of the man believed to be the lone hijacker nor the whereabouts of the plane itself were made public.

Mt. Etna erupts, destroys resort hotel, killing 1

A fresh earth tremor yesterday caused slight damage on the slopes of Mt. Etna, where a volcanic eruption on Christmas Day killed one person and injured 12, but government officials said the lava flow had stopped. The lava flowed down the volcano's southeast side and was contained in a large natural reservoir some distance above the villages of Zafferana and Milo, which have a combined population of 5,500.

The volcano, Europe's most active, triggered a series of earthquakes, causing a resort hotel to collapse, killing one man and injuring 12 other people, authorities said.

Firemen struggle to control oil tank fire near Naples

Firemen were continuing to fight a fire in a storage tank at an oil depot on the outskirts of Naples which exploded four days ago, fire officials said yesterday. Four people died and 170 were injured when the depot, owned by Italian state oil company Agip, exploded last week, sparking off a blaze in 27 giant storage tanks.

Jordan's Hussein to visit Syria, ending 10-year hiatus

King Hussein of Jordan visits Damascus tomorrow, capping four months of Arab League-sponsored talks aimed at easing years of animosity between Jordan and Syria, diplomatic sources said Thursday. It would be the first visit between Hussein and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in 10 years.

Ford and GM open new auto sales promotions

General Motors Corporation and Ford Motor Company kicked off their second major sales incentive campaign of the year today, offering 7.9 percent financing on several car and truck models, the automakers announced.

GAF makes new offer for control of Union Carbide

The GAF Corporation, in its efforts to activate a takeover of the Union Carbide Chemical Company, announced yesterday a new offer of $74 a share in cash for the 90 percent of Union Carbide stock it does not already own.

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