News In Brief

Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi escaped unharmed from an apparent assassination attempt by a lone gunman during a public ceremony Thursday. The captured gunman, who has not yet been officially identified, was reportedly armed with a homemade pistol and appears to have no links with terrorist groups in India. The attempt focuses attention on the prevailing threat to Mr. Gandhi's life. Gandhi has reportedly received death threats from Sikh extremist groups.

S. African official denies threats on US sanctions

Foreign Minister Roelof (Pik) Botha, accused by American senators of using bribery and intimidation to stop sanctions against South Africa, denied yesterday that he had interfered in US affairs. Mr. Botha said he would not apologize for telephoning several farm-belt senators and threatening to halt American grain imports to South Africa if they approved an anti-apartheid sanctions package.

He said South African agricultural groups had been pressuring the government to stop imports of more wheat and corn from the United States, and hinted that an American boycott would force the government to heed the appeal from its own farmers.

FBI assigns team to look into leaks to reporters

The FBI, concerned that the sources of news leaks should receive thorough investigations, has assigned some of its experienced agents to a special unit that is probing unauthorized disclosures to reporters. The four-man unit was created six months ago, an FBI spokesman said Wednesday. Investigations of leaks to the news media are being conducted under espionage laws that prohibit disclosure of classified information.

Philippines charges chief of the NPA with rebellion

The government yesterday charged Rodolfo Salas, the alleged commander and chief of the communist New People's Army, with the capital crime of rebellion, and leftist guerrillas warned that his continued detention could scuttle peace talks. Under the current criminal code, a charge of rebellion can carry a death sentence, but if a new constitution were approved that penalty probably would be commuted.

The New People's Army warned that Salas's continued detention would ``harm irrevocably'' peace talks with President Corazon Aquino's government. The Army was put on alert to guard against reprisal attacks.

5-year grain deal signed with Canada by Soviets

The Soviet Union, which recently spurned US offers of cut-price grain, Thursday signed a five-year grain agreement to buy 25 million metric tons of wheat and feed grains from Canada. The agreement, which took effect Aug. 1, had been initialed and announced last December, and shipments have already begun. It is valued at between $8 billion Canadian (US$5.8 billion) and $10 billion ($7.25 billion) over the five years. The formal signing took place in connection with the visit of Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze to Canada.

French security moves: into Lebanon; out of Togo

In news from France yesterday: A force of 220 French soldiers left from Grenoble to join a logistical support unit of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), a military source said; 730 more officers and soldiers are to be sent to Lebanon next week.

The French troops and aircraft sent to Togo last week to support President Gnassingb'e Eyadema will be withdrawn starting next week, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac's spokesman said yesterday. The country's capital, Lom'e, is now calm after an apparent coup attempt 10 days ago, and there is no longer any need for a French military presence, the spokesman said.

French Security Minister Robert Pandraud announced suspension of all police leaves until Oct. 15.

US setting up task forces to halt crack in 24 cities

Attorney General Edwin Meese III announced Thursday that the government is creating new law enforcement task forces to target crack dealers in 24 major cities. Fifty agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and 32 support personnel will join state and local police in the task force operation, aimed at reducing the crack trade across the country.

US easing fuel economy on '87 and '88 US autos

The Transportration Department announced yesterday it is lowering the fuel economy requirements for 1987- and '88-model automobiles from 27.5 miles a gallon to 26 miles a gallon. The move will allow large car manufacturers to avoid paying a total of $350 million in fines stemming from violation of the federal standard in previous years.

Soviet arms goals in Iceland listed

Moscow is looking for movement in three important areas of arms control at next week's interim summit in Iceland, a Communist Party official said Thursday. The official, who requested anonymity, said that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev hopes for ``clear cut'' progress in medium-range missiles, banning chemical warfare, and the US Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI, or ``star wars''). Although Soviet officials have previously mentioned their hopes for progress in medium-range missiles and chemical warfare, the reference to SDI is new. The main issue there, the official said, would be the question of deployment. ``The US side has talked of not deploying the system for five to seven years,'' he said. ``We would like an undertaking from them not to deploy for at least 15 years. But my personal impression is that we might compromise.''

``We're ready to make more compromises than people think,'' the official said. He added, however, that the Reykjavik meeting would in many ways be ``decisive.'' This time there has to be movement by the US, he said. If President Reagan does show any willingness to make reciprocal compromises, the official said, the Soviet leadership will conclude that there is little or no hope of dealing with the present administration. And a Washington summit would almost certainly be out. ``Gorbachev cannot go to Washington and come back with nothing,'' the official said. ``He won't want to do that, and people here will not want him to do it.''

Though they are still unsure about how interested the Reagan administration is in an arms agreement, the Soviet see several positive indicators. The main one, the official noted, was the position of Congress, which on a number of key issues -- the official specifically mentioned South African sanctions -- had successfully challenged the President.

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