CLAIMS FOR UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS DROP Applications for state jobless benefits in the United States fell last week to the lowest level in nearly five months, the Labor Department said yesterday in a report that analysts said was an encouraging sign for the economic recovery. The department said initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 12,000 to 327,000 in the week ending July 3. That was down from a revised tally of 339,000 the previous week, and substantially lower than the 340,000 anticipated by Wall Street analysts. But they said the

jobs market is far from the growth pace of previous economic recoveries. The more upbeat data came against an increase in the employment rate in June from 6.9 percent to 7 percent, with job creation of only 13,000 nationwide. Nigerian reject deal

The man Nigerians elected president last month blasted his party yesterday for cutting a deal with the military dictator to form an interim government that in all probability excludes him.

"I was elected by the Nigerian people. That is not subject to negotiation," said Moshood Abiola, a billionaire publisher, oilman, and transportation magnate. Mr. Abiola's Social Democrats and the Republicans, the only two legal parties in Nigeria, agreed yesterday to form an interim civilian government to replace the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. Human rights report

Torture, massacres, and state-sponsored murder were documented on an unprecedented scale in 1992, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said in its annual report yesterday.

The 354-page report said that last year at least 62 countries held "prisoners of conscience," more than 110 governments used torture in their prisons or police stations, and 45 governments executed political opponents and "troublemakers." The report also criticized the first UN Conference on Human Rights in 25 years, held in Vienna last month, because it "restated the human rights principles of the past, instead of dealing with the violations of today and the threats of the future." US returns to Somalia

Two thousand US Marines have arrived in northern Somalia. A senior State Department official says the troops carried out an amphibious landing in a town just north of the capital, Mogadishu, and will stay there for a few days training and helping hospital humanitarian relief efforts. They are part of a Marine amphibious ready group that has been stationed offshore.

The official, in Tokyo with President Clinton for the economic summit, spoke on condition of anonymity. In Washington, a Pentagon official speaking on condition of anonymity, says the activities include bringing in doctors and clearing brush. US drug czar

President Clinton's new anti-drug czar promises not to sit idly by the next time Congress tries to slash spending for antidrug programs as it did last week. Lee Brown, the new national drug policy director, acknowledged Wednesday that he was "out of the loop" when the House cut the drug treatment and prevention budget a week earlier by $231 million.

Attributing the problem to just having arrived on the job, Mr. Brown said he planned to seek full funding for the program when it comes up in the Senate and acknowledged he had not focused on the subject during the House debate. Brown said his antidrug strategy will put increased emphasis on treatment and prevention. Currently, 70 percent of the budget goes toward law enforcement. Ukraine and the bomb

Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, increasing the confusion over his country's nuclear stance, said Wednesday that Kiev should claim temporary ownership of its nuclear weapons.

Under terms of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty and related accords, Ukraine is required to destroy or surrender all of its nuclear missiles, leaving Russia as the sole remaining nuclear state in the former Soviet Union. Ukraine has transferred battlefield-range nuclear weapons to Russia but still possesses 176 long-range nuclear missiles capable of carrying multiple warheads, and 37 strategic bombers which carry long-range cruise missiles.

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