News In Brief

Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes announced yesterday he is resigning his White House post after 5 years to join the Wall Street investment firm of Merrill Lynch & Company. Mr. Speakes said he would remain in his job until his successor, who has not yet been named, is ready to take over. He will join Merrill Lynch in New York as a senior vice-president Feb. 1.

Zimbabwe frees detainees in bid for political unity

The Zimbabwean government freed five detainees yesterday, including an opposition politician held as a coup plotter and two whites held for five years as alleged South African spies. Home affairs Minister Enos Nkala said the releases were part of a government drive for unity between rival political groups. Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Joshua Nkomo are close to announcing a merger of their parties after a year of unity talks.

The release of Dumiso Dabengwa, Mr. Nkomo's wartime security chief and No. 2 in the opposition Zimbabwe African People's Party, was seen as clearing a major obstacle in this path.

AMA organ calls testing too thorny for wide use

Mandatory, random drug testing raises too many legal, moral, and other questions to be employed on a widespread basis, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association said yesterday. While urine tests to detect drug use can be very accurate, he said, human error in conducting and interpreting them is still a problem. In addition a major legal issue - ``whether any individual who is apparently functioning normally with no demonstrated impairment can be subjected to a form of intimate body search'' - has yet to be decided by the courts, Dr. Lundberg said.(See related story, Page 24.)

Sandinista troops placed near camp in Honduras

Sandinista troops inside Honduras have pushed within a mile of the main camp of the US-backed Nicaraguan contra rebels, according to military sources. The sources said the Sandinista troops were ``just a small band'' which was probably a reconnaissance force and was not large enough to attack the base, which is about six miles inside Honduras. Meanwhile, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega Saavedra said Wednesday that US troops were massing on the Honduras-Nicaragua border and that shells from the Honduran side were raining onto Nicaraguan territory, but a US Embassy spokesman dismissed the report as ``Sandinista disinformation.'' One hundred Florida national guardsmen are conducting artillery maneuvers with Honduran troops, but US spokesmen say they will go no closer than 12 miles from Nicaragua.

Iran-contra update. Papers report Israel-contra ties

Despite official denials, Israel has for several years maintained a US-backed covert connection to the contra rebels in Nicaragua, Israeli newspapers reported yesterday. The Jerusalem Post and Al Hamishmar, quoting unidentified authoritative US officials, said the clandestine support for the contras included the limited supply of light weapons and ammunition Israel captured in Lebanon. Their reports said the support was fully coordinated with both the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council and that US officials reportedly pressed Israel very hard to help the Reagan administration skirt congressional restrictions on arming the contras.

Among related developments yesterday and Wednesday:

President Reagan said he will allow his Cabinet officers to decide for themselves whether they will invoke the Fifth Amendment if they are called to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, adding that he has not ``given any thought'' to claiming executive privilege to keep them from testifying. Earlier, Patrick Leahy (D) of Vermont, committee chairman, announced that Cabinet members would be called to testify.

Presidential spokesman Larry Speakes said the White House is ``a little bit at odds'' with Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger over Mr. Weinberger's assertion that President Reagan was given bad advice about Iran. In comments Wednesday in Paris, the defense secretary said the President's advisers were wrong in telling him that there were moderate elements in Iran with whom Washington could negotiate. Weinberger said it appeared that there is no one to talk with in Tehran except ``fanatical lunatics.'' ``Obviously the President is on the record and so are the rest of us that there were moderate factions in Iran that we were dealing with...,'' Mr. Speakes said.

The same planes and crews that carried nonlethal aid to the contras also delivered weapons to the rebel fighters, the New York Times reported, quoting unidentified sources. Early in 1986, during a ban on US military aid to the rebels, planes reportedly unloaded nonlethal supplies in El Salvador and Honduras and then flew weapons from Europe to contras based outside Nicaragua.

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