HOSTAGESIn Geneva, UN Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar said Aug. 13 that an Israeli delegation would return to Geneva to meet him Aug. 14 with a response to calls for a global hostage release. He said he thought there was a basis for an exchange, adding that the various sides were not that far apart. Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, after being briefed by Israel's top negotiator on hostages, Uri Lubrani, insisted late Aug. 12 that Israel would take part in an overall hostage swap (see story, Page 3 ). Lubrani had met earlier with Mr. Perez de Cuellar in Geneva. In Damascus, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Aug. 13 it was willing to swap the body of an Israeli soldier for Arab prisoners held by Israel. MIDDLE EAST The UN body coordinating relief work for Kurds in northern Iraq has advised aid workers to leave areas attacked in cross-border raids by Turkish troops last week. Relief workers said civilian villages were bombed by Turkish planes, casting doubt on Turkish assertions that its troops attacked only bases of the Marxist Kurdish Workers Party (PKK). The relief workers as well as Kurdish officials disputed Turkish claims that the areas attacked harbored PKK guerrillas.... The emir of Kuwait said in remarks pu blished in Cairo Aug. 13 that three months before Iraq invaded, Saddam Hussein told him he wanted to take over a third of the emirate to build pipelines, schools, and houses. UNITED STATES Three dozen Soviet children who live in the Chernobyl radiation zone began an Alaska vacation Aug. 12 as part of an international effort to put them in a different and healthy environment for part of the summer.... The planned takeover by BankAmerica of California of rival Security Pacific announced Aug. 12 would create the second-largest US bank. The merger is the third combining US banking giants in less than a month as the industry consolidates from the recession, a soured real estate market, and glob al competition (see story, Page 1).
ASIA AND THE PACIFIC Parliamentarians gathered in the Laotian capital of Vientiane Aug. 13 to approve the impoverished nation's first constitution since the communists took power nearly 16 years ago. The three-day meeting is also expected to announce a substantial shake-up of one of the world's most durable and secretive hierarchies. The assembly will elect a president and prime minister after approving the constitution, which has been on the drawing board since 1975, Deputy Foreign Minister Soubanh Srithirath told Reuters. But formation of political parties would not be allowed, and the Lao People's Revolutionary Party shows no sign of loosening its grip.... Japan's total trade surplus, the source of much conflict with its major trading partners, widened for the seventh consecutive month in July, swelling 25 percent from year ago levels.