News In Brief

President-elect George Bush canceled plans for announcing new Cabinet appointments yesterday after the leading contender for secretary of health and human services was quoted as saying he favored a woman's right to an abortion. The comments were made by Louis Sullivan, a black medical educator, in an Atlanta newspaper, sources said.

Mr. Bush had also been poised to name Chicago mass transit official Samuel Skinner as his transportation secretary, sources said.

Salvadoran rebels ask truce for holiday season

El Salvador's leftist Farabundo Mart'i National Liberation Front rebels have proposed a truce during the Christmas holidays. In a communiqu'e read over local radio stations, the front said it was willing to ``cease all offensive actions'' between Dec. 23 and Jan. 1.

Last week, however, both President Jos'e Napole'on Duarte and Defense Minister Eugenio Vides rejected the possibility of a truce between the government and the rebels.

Red Cross suspends work in Lebanon after threats

The International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday it was suspending its operations in Lebanon after receiving new threats against the lives of staff members. The decision came four days after the release of Peter Winkler, the chief Red Cross delegate in south Lebanon who was held hostage for a month.

A Red Cross spokesman declined to elaborate on the nature of the threats or say what groups were believed behind them.

Polish chief orders party to reform but snubs union

Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, the Polish leader, demanded major changes yesterday within the ruling Communist Party but failed to offer expected concessions to the banned Solidarity trade union. At a meeting of the party's Central Committee, Mr. Jaruzelski did not mention Solidarity and gave no hint he would legalize the union.

Jaruzelski repeated, however, a commitment to reconciliation with the ``constructive opposition'' and said that real economic and political reform was needed.

Soviet premier defuses fear of quake epidemic

Soviet Prime Minister Nikolai Ryzhkov says there is no danger of epidemics from the recent Armenian earthquake, which killed at least 55,000 people. Mr. Ryzhkov, Politburo member Nikolai Slyunkov, and Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov were scheduled to return to Moscow yesterday after overseeing emergency relief work in the areas where the quake struck.

Workers began rebuilding shattered homes Monday in Kirovakan, a city that was 50 percent destroyed, and public transport resumed in the city of Leninakan.

Governing party in Peru gives Garc'ia rival control

The governing Aprista Party yesterday named President Alan Garc'ia's chief rival to its top administrative post, effectively giving the rival control over the party. Former Prime Minister Luis Alva Castro was elected secretary-general of the center-left party by a majority of delegates, the party said.

Over the weekend, party leaders indicated they would reject Garc'ia's recent resignation as party president. But no rejection has been issued, and it appeared yesterday that the post of party president would go vacant.

Thailand starts sending Burmese students home

Thailand is starting to send home thousands of Burmese students who fled the Army takeover in Rangoon, Thai and Burmese officials said yesterday. The plan, which follows an amicable visit by a Thai Army commander to Burma last week, has caused concern among many students who fear for their lives if they return.

Burmese authorities have set a deadline of Dec. 31 by which the students must return or be treated as guerrillas.

South Korea to free 281 political prisoners

South Korea announced yesterday it will free 281 political prisoners in a further move to wipe away the legacy of eight years of authoritarian rule. Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon said the amnesty followed consultations with opposition parties and was aimed at removing ``scars of the past and promoting democracy.''

Mr. Kang said that a total of 2,015 people would be freed, paroled, have their civil rights restored, or their sentences quashed under the amnesty, which takes effect today.

Vanuatu's Parliament moves to oust President

Vanuatu's Parliament moved yesterday to dismiss the South Pacific nation's President, accusing him of gross misconduct after he swore in his nephew as an alternative prime minister. A parliamentry motion called for the country's electoral college to meet within two weeks to discuss the dismissal of President Ati George Sokomanu.

The motion stated that Mr. Sokomanu should be dismissed because of his attempted dissolution of Parliament last Friday, which, it said, amounted to attempted treason.

US trying to thwart Libya on chemical arms start-up

The US is making diplomatic efforts to dissuade other nations and private companies from selling Libya materials needed to start up its huge chemical weapons plant, the State Department's top counter-terrorism official said yesterday. Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said Monday that the Libyan plant was ``on the verge of full-scale production,'' and L.Paul Bremer, head of the department's counterterrorism office, said officials are concerned that its products might get into the hands of terrorist groups around the world.

UN agreement on drugs grants extradition rights

A UN conference yesterday adopted an international agreement against illicit drug trafficking and drug abuse which it hopes will deal an efficient blow to those who sell and use drugs. The agreement for the first time gives all signatory countries the right of extradition of suspected drug traffickers and the right to confiscate all their assets.

The document, first conceived four years ago, was signed by 43 countries, including the US, at the close of the UN conference.

NASA lays groundwork for missions to Mars

NASA is laying the groundwork to send the next generation of astronauts beyond Earth's orbit early in the 21st century, with missions to Mars and a space station on a Martian moon among the possibilities. In a report that was released Monday, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration examined several different strategies for exploring the inner reaches of the solar system.

For the record

Pope John Paul II appointed Joachim Cardinal Meisner of Berlin to head the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Cologne, West Germany, yesterday. Max Robinson, who died yesterday, was the nation's first black network television news anchor.

President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev plan to exchange New Year's greetings in televised messages to the people of the US and the Soviet Union, the White House said yesterday.

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