News In Brief

A statement saying William Higgins, the abducted US marine colonel, faced execution for espionage was issued in Beirut yesterday. The statement was issued in the name of the Organization of the Oppressed of the World and contained a photocopy of a photograph of Colonel Higgins.

Higgins, commander of the UN Truce Supervision Organization in Lebanon, was kidnapped last Feb. 17 in south Lebanon.

Southern African treaty moving toward a signing

South Africa, Angola, and Cuba will initial a peace protocol for southern Africa today and sign a final agreement in New York later this month, the State Department announced yesterday. Spokesman Charles Redman said US-mediated peace talks that reconvened in Brazzaville, Congo, yesterday would end today.

The goal of the agreement is the withdrawal of 50,000 Cuban troops from Angola and independence for the South African-ruled territory of South-West Africa, also called Namibia.

Premier leaves; policies to stay in North Korea

North Korea appointed Politburo member Yon Hyong Muk as premier yesterday. The official North Korean News Agency, monitored in Tokyo, said Premier Li Gun Mo had resigned because of poor health. Analysts said they expected no changes in policy. A senior researcher at Seoul's Institute of North Korea Studies said that Pyongyang had had setbacks in a series of seven-year economic development plans and that this could have been a reason for the latest shuffle.

Cold grips Northeast, snow snarls Midwest

A frigid air mass spread from the Great Lakes to New England and the South yesterday, plunging temperatures to record lows and forcing homeless people to shelters. Accidents on snowy roads were blamed for at least 10 deaths in the Midwest. Snow caused hazardous driving conditions through much of Kansas, and Ohio. The bitter temperatures forced hundreds of homeless off the streets in Detroit and into shelters, agencies reported.

Mexico City cleans up after fireworks blast

Investigators cleared unexploded illegal fireworks yesterday from a marketplace where a chain reaction of blasts and flames killed at least 62 people. The fire was started by homemade fireworks and swept through a market area in Mexico City. The area was crowded with shoppers buying food and looking for Christmas presents and fireworks to celebrate the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, Mexico's patron saint, which was yesterday.

Witnesses said the fire spread through the wood and concrete structure within seconds.

Amnesty accuses Iran of a wave of killings

Iranian authorities have carried out the biggest wave of secret political executions since the early 1980s, Amnesty International said yesterday. The London-based international human rights organization said it had indisputable evidence of mass killings, coming from relatives of executed prisoners and statements by authorities. Those killed in the latest wave include suspected political opponents kept in jail or rearrested after serving their sentences, and left-wing and Kurdish opposition activists, Amnesty said.

Present President wins a new term in Pakistan

Incumbent Ghulam Ishaq Khan easily won a five-year term as Pakistan's president yesterday. A Federal Election Commission official said that Mr. Ishaq Khan, of the Pakistan Muslim League, swept 78 percent of the presidential vote. His candidacy had been backed by both Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party and a rival alliance. Prime Minister Bhutto, meanwhile, won her first test of strength in the National Assembly, the country's lower house of parliament. Of 203 members voting on the confidence motion, 148 voted ``yes'' and 55, ``no.''

Final talks on US bases in Greece begin today

Greece and the US will start final talks today on the future of US military bases in the country, the US Embassy said yesterday. The 12th scheduled round of negotiations at the Foreign Ministry was due to open yesterday but was delayed for procedural reasons, an embassy spokeswoman said.

At stake are four large bases and 20 smaller US installations in Greece that operate under a 1983 agreement expiring this month. If a new pact is not signed, Americans will have 17 months to dismantle the bases.

Ex-Nazi officer's trial postponed by illness

The trial of a former German Army officer accused of propagating the claim that the Nazis did not kill millions of Jews was postponed yesterday after he became ill. A Munich court spokesman said Otto-Ernst Remer, a former major general in Adolf Hitler's Army, was unfit to stand trial Tuesday as scheduled. No new trial date was set.

Mr. Remer, active in reunions of former Nazi SS officers, is charged with distributing videocassettes disputing the murder of millions of Jews in gas chambers.

Venezuelan leader to talk with Bush on oil, debts

Venezuelan President-elect Carlos Andr'es P'erez will meet with President-elect Bush in Washington today for negotiations that will focus on oil, foreign debt, and Central America, the official news agency Venpres has reported. Mr. P'erez is making Washington the last stop on a six-day tour in which he has already met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Algeria to discuss oil and to promote an OPEC summit, Venezuelan officials said.

Venezuela belongs to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Afghan rebels in Iran may talk with Soviets

Iranian-based Afghan rebels said the Soviet Union has offered direct talks with their leaders following discussions with Pakistan-based mujahideen on the future of Afghanistan. The Iranian news agency IRNA, which is monitored in Nicosia, said the eight-party rebel alliance based in Iran was studying Moscow's offer.

Iran-based mujahideen groups operate in the western regions of Afghanistan, where much of the population follows the Shiite sect of Islam, dominant in Iran, in contrast with the more powerful and mainly Sunni mujahideen based in Pakistan.

For the record

Six people were injured yesterday, including an American woman, when a firebomb was thrown at a passenger bus in Arab East Jerusalem, police said. More than 20,000 workers went on strike yesterday at Hyundai Heavy Industries, South Korea's biggest shipyard, to press demands for better working conditions, shipyard officials said.

Japan said yesterday it would give $9 million in cash and materials to help earthquake-hit Soviet Armenia, more than it has ever given before in emergency aid.

Solidarity leader Lech Walesa said yesterday his outlawed trade union is ready for talks on reforming the Polish system and strikes should be a last resort.

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