News In Brief

Afghan leader Mohammed Najibullah Sunday ended a three-day visit to the Soviet Union during which he and Mikhail Gorbachev expressed confidence that the Afghan problem would soon be settled on their terms. Najib, as he is popularly known, spoke of his willingness to include Afghan exiles in a government of national unity, but did not indicate his ruling pro-Moscow Marxist party would relinquish any power. In fact, he spoke of the growth and strengthening of his party.

If a political solution is found, Mr. Gorbachev said, the Soviet Union would accelerate the withdrawal of its troops. The Soviets claim that the war against Afghan guerrillas has been going better since Najib took over the country's leadership in May.

Pretoria to free two Swiss captured by its troops

The South African government said yesterday it would release two Swiss citizens kidnapped from Swaziland. The Swazi government said the two were abducted during South African raids on houses in Mbabane and the industrial city of Manzini on Friday. South African Foreign Minister Roelef Botha defended his country's actions in the kidnappings, saying the Swiss citizens had been ``involved in activities which would affect South Africa's security....''

Pro-Arafat Palestinians cling to Lebanese village

Palestinian guerrillas loyal to Yasser Arafat clung to posts in the south Lebanese village of Maghdousheh Sunday, defying an Iranian-mediated accord to end battles between Palestinians and Shiite Muslims. About 100 Palestinians from Damascus-based groups handed some positions in Maghdousheh to neutral pro-Iranian Hizbullah (Party of God) militiamen, but pro-Arafat guerrillas said they had reoccupied them.

Poet given permission to leave Soviet Union

Irina Ratushinskaya, a leading poet released from prison two months ago, said she has been given permission to leave the Soviet Union but pledges to retain her Soviet citizenship. Ms. Ratushinskaya said Saturday she and her husband planned to leave for Britain in a few days but hoped to return to defend human rights in the Soviet Union.

US nuclear weapons test in Nevada one of largest

A major nuclear weapons test rocked the Nevada desert Saturday following a nearly two-hour delay because of technical problems that stopped the countdown five seconds before detonation. The device was described as having an explosive force equivalent to up to 150,000 tons of TNT, the largest allowed under the Limited Test Ban Treaty.

Brazilian labor strike falls short of expectations

A 24-hour nationwide strike to protest economic austerity and the foreign debt closed some industrial plants Friday, but appeared to have little general effect on Brazil. The government said only a fraction of the work force joined the strike called by the country's two largest labor organizations. A spokesman for the sponsors acknowledged that it fell far short of goals.

Nuclear winter study begins in California

About 500 acres of the Angeles National Forest were set on fire Friday in an experiment to gather information on the controversial ``nuclear winter'' theory. A California forestry service helicopter sent flaming, jellied fuel onto the forest floor, igniting a blaze that was being monitored by dozens of government scientists and private researchers. It was the first test of the ``nuclear winter'' theory, which holds that smoke from an atomic war might darken the sky enough to cool the climate, disrupting agriculture and bringing the extinction of numerous species.

Second US citizen arrested in Nicaragua

A US citizen identified as Sam Nesley Hall has been arrested at an airbase in northern Nicaragua and is being held on suspicion of spying, the Nicaraguan government said Sunday. Mr. Hall was arrested Friday with maps and information of possible military targets in Nicaragua, according to a Sandinista spokesman. He is the brother of Rep. Tony P. Hall (D) of Ohio.

According to the Sandinistas, Hall first identified himself as a writer interested in Nicaragua, but then told the Nicaraguan authorities that he was a member of the ``Phoenix Batallion.''

``[Hall] said that this batallion is a private organization that works for the US armed forces...the function of that batallion was to carry out espionage and gather military intelligence data of interest to the US government,'' Miguel D'Escoto Brockmann, the Nicaraguan foreign minister, said. He said that when Hall was searched authorities found a hand-drawn map detailing military points of interest in Nicaragua hidden in his sock.

US State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman said Sunday he had no independent confirmation of Hall's arrest, adding ``We hope [the Nicaraguan government] will allow us access to the person arrested.''

Iran-contra update. Prosecutor reportedly chosen

A panel of federal judges settled on Lawrence E. Walsh of Oklahoma City, a former president of the American Bar Association, as independent counsel to conduct a criminal investigation into arms sales to Iran and the transfer of proceeds to the Nicaraguan contras, according to reports from National Public Radio and the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. NPR and the Times said the announcement of the appointment of Judge Walsh would be made later in the week after a security check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a review of his legal record. Although Walsh declined to confirm the reports, he reportedly told NBC News, ``I'll probably see you soon in Washington.''

Among other recent developments:

John Kelly, US ambassador to Lebanon, said he was told by national-security adviser John Poindexter that Secretary of State George Shultz approved plans to bypass the State Department on secret negotiations with Iran on hostage releases, the New York Times reported yesterday.

The Justice Department acknowledged Friday that it briefly sidetracked an FBI probe of the Nicaraguan contras and the operations of Southern Air Transport, a Miami-based cargo airline, due to unspecified ``legitimate national security concerns.'' The department made the admission after the Wall Street Journal reported that the investigation was delayed in October or early November because of delicate hostage negotiations. The article raised questions about how much Attorney General Edwin Meese III may have known prior to mid-November about arms sales and the transfer of funds to the contras.

The Swiss government has unfrozen two Credit Suisse bank accounts, explaining that it has not received information it requires from the US Justice Department to support its request that banking secrecy be lifted. CBS News reported that one of those accounts was in the name of Lt. Col. Oliver North.

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Don Mazankowski said Friday the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were investigating Central Intelligence Agency chief William Casey's statements that Canadian businessmen were involved in financing Iranian purchases of American arms.

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