News Currents

UNITED STATESSharp cuts by General Motors in jobs and plants, announced Wednesday, are the deepest in recent times for a US company, said GM president Robert Stempel. The company will drop 74,000 jobs and close 21 factories in the US and Canada over three years. As recently as the early '80s, GM had a lock on 45 percent of US car and truck sales, a figure now down to 34.7 percent. Stempel said a stagnant economy, falling sales, and lack of consumer confidence all forced the decision to cut back. AFRICA Staff writer John Battersby reports from South Africa: Inkatha Freedom Party leader, Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, announced yesterday he was withdrawing from today's first all-party political negotiations because Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini had not been accorded special status. But the Inkatha delegation will still participate in the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). Senior officials of other major parties said they regretted the pull-out but did not think Buthelezi's absence would dama ge CODESA. The government and the other 18 parties have agreed that an all-party mechanism would be created to give CODESA's decisions legal force.... The United Nations General Assembly Wednesday approved in New York a new 10-year program to reduce Africa's staggering $270 billion foreign debt following the failure of its previous five-year plan to raise living standards on the continent.

MIDDLE EAST Yasser Arafat is dissolving his 5,000-strong Palestinian Fatah group in southern Lebanon, an Israeli military source said yesterday. The group is said to be behind many earlier terrorist acts. The demoralized Fatah members, already decimated by the Israelis and other opponents, are shifting to Iran and Syria for sponsorship, the source said.... Iran, vying with Turkey for influence in the newly independent Soviet Muslim republics, will open consulates in all six of them, the Iranian news agency reported yesterday.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC Prime Minister Bob Hawke was dumped by his Australian Labor Party yesterday because neither his personal popularity nor the recession which has gripped Australia for 18 months showed any signs of improving. Former Treasurer Paul Keating will replace him. The 56-to-51 vote followed a call by Hawke for a showdown. Keating also is not a popular figure. But Labor hopes its own fortunes will change before the next election, which must be held by May 1993.... China and South Africa will soon swap unofficial re presentative offices, the first step along a path that has brought Beijing closer to other old ideological foes such as South Korea and Israel.... Hanoi yesterday welcomed Washington's decision to lift a ban on organized travel by Americans to Vietnam in a slight easing of a trade embargo imposed since the Indochina war.

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