News In Brief

The Soviet Union has proposed that US and Soviet officials meet this month in Geneva to discuss President Reagan's tentative decision to abandon the 1979 SALT II limitations, administration officials said yesterday. The Soviet proposal calls for the Standing Consultative Commission, a body of US and Soviet experts, to meet starting July 22 to consider Mr. Reagan's decision on the 1979 accord.

White House spokesman Larry Speakes told reporters yesterday that no decision had been reached on how to respond to the proposal.

5 American oil companies officially wind up in Libya

The presence of American oil companies in Libya ended yesterday under orders from President Reagan. The five oil companies still retaining Libyan interests said late last week that they would follow the administration's order and close down their operations in the North African nation by the deadline. Yesterday's deadline primarily represented a bookkeeping change for most of the companies, since they had not had American workers in Libya for several years.

Italian President seeks to resolve political crisis

President Francesco Cossiga began two days of consultations yesterday aimed at finding a way out of Italy's political crisis caused by last week's resignation of Prime Minister Bettino Craxi. Mr. Cossiga, as is usual in such circumstances, reserved his decision on whether to accept until he could assess the best way to give Italy a new government. He is expected to make his decision by tomorrow night.

Political sources said Cossiga's most likely course was either to send Mr. Craxi's government back to Parliament for a vote of confidence or ask the outgoing prime minister to try to form a new coalition made up of the same five parties.

Sun-Times in Chicago being sold by Murdoch

The Chicago Sun-Times has been sold to publisher Robert E. Page and a group of investors for $145 million, officials said yesterday. The sale of the Pulitzer Prize-winning daily by Rupert Murdoch's News America Publishing Company to the Page syndicate is to be closed tomorrow.

Mr. Murdoch's company had to sell the Sun-Times after it acquired Chicago's WFLD-TV in March. Federal rules prohibit ownership of a television station and newspaper in the same city.

Israeli parliament, court begin hijack hearings

The Israeli parliament and the Supreme Court began separate hearings yesterday on the killing of two Palestinian bus hijackers in 1984 and the alleged government cover-up that followed. A three-judge high court panel started hearing five appeals against President Chaim Herzog's decision to grant immunity from prosecution to the head of the Shin Beth secret service, Avraham Shalom, and three agents.

In the Knesset, or parliament, four left-wing parties and the ultra-nationalist Kach Party presented motions of no confidence in the shaky coalition government, which has been split by the scandal.

President of Peru fires paramilitary guard chief

The government dismissed the chief of the paramilitary Republican Guard police force yesterday, three days after President Alan Garc'ia P'erez accused the guard of slaughtering at least 100 prisoners. Mr. Garc'ia accused the guard, Peru's third-largest police force, of executing accused Maoist guerrilla inmates at the Lima Lurigancho prison after they surrendered in a revolt 11 days ago. He vowed to punish all those responsible.

Mulroney shifts Cabinet to improve party appeal

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, his Progressive Conservative Party sagging in popularity, yesterday announced Cabinet changes affecting more than half the nation's 38 government ministers. Mulroney made the changes with an eye toward the next election, trying to stem slide in public opinion polls of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Magazine says CIA plans $400 million for `contras'

Following last week's House vote to give the Nicaraguan ``contras'' $100 million in aid, the Central Intelligence Agency plans to provide the rebel forces with support worth an additional $400 million, Newsweek reported in its July 7 edition. The magazine said the CIA, which has been barred from military involvement with the contras since 1984, will provide support including covert logistical support, training, communications, and intelligence.

Ex-admiral takes helm at US nuclear panel

Lando W. Zech Jr., a retired Navy vice-admiral, takes over today as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Mr. Zech succeeds Nunzio Palladino and is expected to serve for three years as chairman of the five-member NRC, which oversees the nation's commercial nuclear power program.

Rogers, Bias deaths cited by others as a warning

The deaths of football star Don Rogers and basketball star Len Bias from apparent cocaine overdoses just eight days apart should be a strong warning to other athletes to stay away from the drug, sports figures say. Mr. Rogers's coach, Marty Schottenheimer of the Cleveland Browns, said he hoped the public would realize the necessity of avoiding drugs. UCLA coach Terry Donahue called for all leaders in sports to take a stand on drug-testing.

Criminal hearings open to public

The public may attend pretrial hearings in criminal cases even if a defendant objects, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday. By a 7-to-2 vote, the court said judges may conduct pretrial hearings in secret only as a last resort to ensure a fair trial and only after telling why such steps are necessary. The ruling carries enormous practical significance, especially for the news media, because 9 of every 10 criminal prosecutions are concluded before they reach trial.

The justices said news reporters and other members of the public were wrongly excluded from a 41-day pretrial hearing for a California nurse later convicted of killing 12 hospital patients. The closed hearings conducted in the case of Robert Rubane Diaz were challenged by the Riverside Press-Enterprise after the newspaper's reporters were barred from the courtroom.

The Supreme Court in 1980 ruled for the first time that the public has a right to attend criminal trials over a defendant's objection. A year earlier, the court had ruled that a defendant's right to an open trial -- guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment -- does not give the public any right to attend pretrial proceedings. The 1979 ruling left unanswered whether such public access was required by the First Amendment.

Today, Chief Justice Warren E. Burger wrote for the court that such public access is constitutionally guaranteed.

The ruling is limited to criminal prosecutions and does not apply to civil -- noncriminal -- cases. The high court has never said the public had a constitutional right to attend civil trials.

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