News In Brief

A Catalonian separatist group yesterday claimed responsibility for the attack on a USO club that killed a US sailor and injured nine others in this northeastern city, the Spanish national news agency EFE said. The news agency said it received a telephone call from a woman who claimed responsibility for Saturday's bombing on behalf of the Red Army of Catalonian Liberation.

The army seeks independence from Spain for the four-province northeastern region of Catalonia which has Barcelona as its capital.

Clashes reported between Philippine Army, rebels

Troops killed five communist guerrillas in a clash on Luzon Island hours before the insurgency marked its 19th anniversary with the rebels' first radio broadcast, the military said yesterday. The gunbattle occurred Saturday in the town of Polangui, 200 miles southeast of Manila. In another development, gunmen believed to be communist rebels killed two soldiers and two civilians in an apparent violation of the guerrillas' Christmas truce, the military said Saturday. The shootings occurred near the city of Malolos, about 20 miles north of Manila.

Defector says Cubans instructed to assist army

All Cuban personnel in Nicaragua have instructions to organize into combat units to assist the Sandinista Army in the event of a US invasion of Nicaragua, according to a high-ranking Cuban defector. Brig. Gen. Rafael del Pino Diaz, who defected to the United States last May, told US officials that the Cuban units in Nicaragua are under orders to cross into neighboring countries as part of a strategy to disperse the invading US forces as much as possible.

Separately, heavy fighting between Nicaraguan Army and rebel troops resumed Saturday after a two-day Christmas truce expired, according to a rebel radio station. Both sides accused the other of violating the truce.

Soviet police break up protests of Afghan war

Demonstrations on Saturday by a group calling for the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan were broken up by Soviet police, a spokesman for the group said. Nikolai Khramov, a member of the Group of Trust Between the United States and the Soviet Union, said security men moved in just a few seconds after eight demonstrators gathered outside the Defense Ministry in central Moscow.

It was the second straight day of demonstrations by the group to mark the eighth anniversary of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.

South Korea to decide on accepting more US goods

South Korea will decide this week whether to give in to a US ultimatum to open its markets wider to American products such as beef and cigarettes or face sanctions, government officials said yesterday. Separately, the government may free thousands of prisoners, including about 1,000 political detainees, to celebrate the presidential victory of Roh Tae woo, sources in the governing party said Saturday.

The sources said the release was expected to be ordered under a general amnesty about a week before Roh's inauguration, scheduled for Feb. 25.

Saudi urges end to Gulf war at regional meeting

Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, hosting a four-day Gulf Cooperation Council summit yesterday, accused Iran yesterday of pursuing regional territorial ambitions, and urged the Tehran government to instead join Arabs in trying to ``liberate'' Jerusalem from Israeli occupation. Separately, Iraq claimed its warplanes attacked a tanker in the Persian Gulf Saturday. On Friday, a South Korean cargo ship was hit by an Iranian gunboat. Meanwhile, the UN Security Council issued a statement Thursday saying it would consider further steps to ensure compliance with its July 20 resolution demanding a cease-fire in the Iran-Iraq war.

Iran is making chemical weapons, premier says

Iranian Prime Minister Hossein Musavi, said yesterday that his country is producing ``sophisticated offensive chemical weapons'' and has deployed long-range missiles along its war front with Iraq. Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted Mr. Musavi as saying that Iran will also soon begin manufacturing fighter aircraft.

Musavi's admission that Iran is producing chemical weapons was the first official statement indicating that manufacturing has begun.

Terrorists said planning to release captive children

A Palestinian guerrilla group that seized eight prisoners from a yacht off the Gaza Strip nearly two months ago is reportedly planning to release two children among the captives, a French contact of the group said. The Foreign Ministry yesterday refused to confirm press reports that the two children, snatched on Nov. 8 along with six adults, would be freed in the next couple of weeks.

But Lucien Bitterlin, president of the French-Arab Solidarity Association, told French radio on Saturday that ``reliable sources'' had informed him the Fatah Revolutionary Council would set Marie-Laure and Virginie Valente free.

Panama expels D'iaz - once No. 2 to Noriega

Dissident Panamanian Army Col. Roberto D'iaz Herrera was expelled from Panama and flew to Caracas Thursday, government officials said. Officials said Colonel D'iaz was sentenced to five years in jail Wednesday for crimes against the state.

D'iaz was No. 2 to military strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega until last June. When he was bypassed for promotion, he launched an unprecedented attack on Mr. Noriega, accusing him of drug trafficking, election fraud, and involvement in political assassinations.

Battered West Memphis area hit by flood waters

Flooding that began on Christmas morning and forced more than 4,000 people from their homes began receding Saturday. The high water was blamed for three deaths. In addition to the estimated 3,200 evacuated in Millington, 800 people fled their homes on the other side of the Mississippi River in West Memphis, Ark.

Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton Saturday declared West Memphis and vicinity a disaster area for the second time in a week, pledging to extend the earlier aid prompted by tornado damage.

For the record

Prime Minister Robert Mugabe was named as the sole candidate for Zimbabwe's new executive presidency when nominations closed Thursday. Three car-bomb blasts rocked two shopping areas Saturday in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing one person on the eve of the eighth anniversary of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan, authorities said.

The Ugandan president and the president of Kenya will meet today at the border where clashes this month disrupted trade and diplomatic links, the Kenyan Foreign Ministry announced yesterday.

Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu called on fellow blacks yesterday to halt factional bloodshed in Natal province, where at least 14 people have been killed since Christmas Eve.

CorrectionCorrection for 12/24/87

A headline in last Thursday's News in Brief incorrectly identified John McMichael as a leader of the outlawed Irish Republican Army. Mr. McMichael was a key Protestant paramilitary leader who was slain by the IRA.

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