News In Brief

Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot said yesterday he made millions available to the US government over the past several years for ransom attempts to free American hostages. Mr. Perot, in an interview on ABC-TV's ``Nightline,'' confirmed an account published in Tuesday's editions of the Washington Post, which said the billionaire put up the money at the request of Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North while he was a national-security aide. On May 23, Colonel North asked Perot to deposit $2 million in a Swiss bank account, the newspaper said, quoting anonymous ``informed sources.'' (See related Perot story on Page 35.)

Perot was on the point of telexing the money when North called and asked him to send it by courier to Cyprus for an exchange in ``a ship-to-ship transfer,'' the Post said. Perot's courier waited five days on Cyprus, but the deal for the release of five Americans fell through for reasons that could not be determined, the newspaper said.

US and Soviets placing arms talks under wraps

The United States and the Soviet Union clamped a news blackout on a special round of talks on nuclear and space-based weapons systems that began yesterday. The two sides held several meetings, said Terry Shroeder, a spokesman for the US delegation. The three topics under negotiation are long-range nuclear forces, intermediate-range nuclear weapons, and space and defense systems.

Seoul opposition party wants to quit Assembly

Main opposition party lawmakers in South Korea threatened yesterday to resign en masse from the National Assembly after governing party legislators met on their own and passed a 1987 national budget. The New Korea Democratic Party had refused to act on the budget until the governing Democratic Justice Party apologized for the police having forcibly blocked its rally on Sunday. The government would not apologize.

Early yesterday, the Democratic Justice Party's 148 legislators went behind locked doors and passed the $17.88 billion budget unanimously. In response, all but two of the New Korea Democratic Party's 90 lawmakers submitted letters of resignation to party president Lee Min Woo. The letters were in abeyance.

Aquino takes resignations of two more in Cabinet

Philippine President Corazon Aquino accepted the resignations of two more Cabinet members Tuesday and will announce their replacements today, her spokesman, Teodoro Benigno, said. Mr. Benigno refused to say which ministers had resigned, but speculation centered on Labor Minister Augusto Sanchez and Local Governments Minister Aquilino Pimentel.

The government radio station quoted unidentified sources as saying Mr. Pimentel would be replaced by prominent businessman Jaime Ferrer. Both are members of the PDP-Laban Party, one of Mrs. Aquino's strongest political backers.

US economic barometer a bit stronger in October

The government's main gauge of future economic activity rose a moderate 0.6 percent in October, the biggest increase in three months, but a gain influenced by special factors. The Commerce Department said the improvement in its index of leading indicators followed a lackluster 0.2 percent September increase and a 0.2 percent decline in August.

Analysts said even the 0.6 percent October increase was not as strong as it appeared because half of the advance came from a pickup in raw materials prices. The raw materials that increased were recycled paper, aluminum, and raw cotton.

Christians, Muslims join in Lebanese protest strike

Christians and Muslims in Lebanon brought their divided country to a standstill in a rare show of unity yesterday when the two communities held a general strike against worsening economic problems. Local radios said most of the country came to a halt. In both Christian and Muslim sectors of Beirut, shops, banks, schools, restaurants, and newspaper offices were closed. It was the second time in five months that Christian and Muslim communities - engaged in civil war for 11 years - had been brought together in a single protest against economic hardship.

The Lebanese pound has lost more than 72 percent of its value against the dollar this year, while economists estimate the inflation rate reached at least 100 percent for the year ended Sept. 30. Residents say prices of some essential goods have rocketed by more than 40 percent over the past month.

Britain airs law to curb causes of Ulster violence

The British government published proposals Monday that would toughen laws against parades and rhetoric that frequently lead to sectarian clashes in Northern Ireland. Draft legislation would strengthen the powers of provincial authorities to restrict parades and meetings that might disrupt public order. The proposals seek to discourage the centuries-old Protestant custom of establishing supremacy over the Roman Catholic minority by holding parades through Catholic areas, sometimes accompanied by religious rhetoric that the Catholics consider insulting.

Soviets run first tests of shuttle on launch pad

The Soviet Union has conducted the first tests of its space shuttle on a launch pad, an aerospace industry magazine reports. Aviation Week & Space Technology said photographs taken by US reconnaissance satellites showed the shuttle mounted on its booster rocket for a series of fit checks.

The magazine said Monday that US intelligence officials believe the Soviets will attempt the first launch of the booster, unmanned, next year, and the first manned launch in 1988, about the time the American shuttle returns to flight.

The publication also said NASA is considering a new manned launch vehicle, designated shuttle II, that could become operational before the current shuttle fleet is retired. Shuttle II, launched by a single-stage rocket, would be smaller than the present shuttle and used primarily for carrying people into space.

Israeli court lifts bias against Jewish converts

Israel's Supreme Court barred authorities yesterday from discriminating against converts to Judaism in a decision that averted a potential clash with millions of American Jews. The court ruled the Interior Ministry could not stamp the word ``convert'' on the identity papers of a Christian-born American woman who immigrated into Israel after converting to Reform Judaism in 1981. The decision was a relief to Reform and Conservative Jews abroad who were concerned the label would exclude thousands of converts from ever being recognized as full-fledged Jews.

Argentina holding session to speed law for divorce

A special session of Argentina's National Congress is to convene today on orders by President Ra'ul Alfons'in to complete action on a bill legalizing divorce in the wake of a court ruling. The Chamber of Deputies passed a bill in August to legalize divorce, outlawed here for 98 years, and the Senate was expected to consider the bill in the next regular session in 1987.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional an article in the country's marriage code that barred remarriage while an original spouse was still alive.

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