Afghan Faction Offers Cease-Fire
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN — ROCKET-PROPELLED cluster bombs sprayed shrapnel on the Afghan capital of Kabul today as fundamentalist rebels battled the government. Defense Ministry officials said at least 100 people were killed and hundreds wounded.
For more than a week, fighters loyal to rebel chieftain Gulbuddin Hekmatyar have pounded the city with rockets and relentless artillery fire, killing or wounding more than 1,000 people, according to the government.
Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami forces vowed Wednesday to continue the shelling until the Islamic government evicts from Kabul a militia, formerly allied with the regime of President Najibullah that switched allegiance early this year.
But from Hezb-e-Islami headquarters in Peshawar, Pakistan, a spokesman for the rebel group offered a one-day cease-fire to let foreigners leave Kabul.
"We will accept a cease-fire for one day if the other side accepts," the spokesman said by telephone.
The shelling, arising from a power struggle among rival factions of former Muslim rebels, is the most intense since mujahideen fighters toppled Najibullah in April after 14 years of civil war.
Although Hekmatyar has given tacit approval to the Islamic government that replaced Najibullah's regime, he has demanded removal of the militia and elections within three months. Thai bomb blast
A bomb exploded at a train station in southern Thailand yesterday as the country's pro-democracy leader campaigned nearby. Two people were killed and at least 73 injured, authorities said.
The blast occurred inside the waiting area of the station in this commercial town near the Malaysian border. A second bomb exploded at the station about an hour and a half later but caused no injuries.
An Army explosives specialist, who would not give his name, said that before the first explosion a man was seen buying a ticket, then leaving a bag behind and walking out of the station.
Chamlong Srimuang, who led a mass uprising in May against the military-dominated government, was in a pickup truck speaking to people near the railway station when the blast occurred, said police spokesman Sgt. Udom Sukngan. He did not elaborate.
Mr. Chamlong, who was not injured, is in the south campaigning for a National Assembly seat in the Sept. 13 general election brought about by the May demonstrations. He was scheduled to make an evening speech near the train station. Japan's trade surplus jumps 40 percent
Brisk exports and flat imports pushed Japan's politically sensitive trade surplus up 40 percent in July from a year earlier to $9.24 billion, the government reported yesterday.
It was the 19th straight month in which exports exceeded imports by a larger amount than the previous year.
The Finance Ministry said exports rose for the 26th month, growing 10.8 percent to $29.47 billion, while imports edged up just 1.1 percent to $20.23 billion. The surplus with the United States, Japan's biggest trade partner, rose 27.3 percent to $3.83 billion.
The figures came amid increasing international pressure on Japan to increase domestic consumption, which would encourage import growth and reduce the snowballing trade surplus. The governing Liberal Democratic Party has proposed new spending, with details expected to be worked out in coming months.
Ministry officials said robust overseas demand, particularly for semiconductors and office equipment, offset the impact of the stronger yen, which makes Japanese products more expensive abroad. Japan reported last month that its trade surplus for the first half of 1992 was a record $49.03 billion, up 52.4 percent from the same period in 1991.