INFLATION RATE HITS SEVEN-YEAR LOW US consumer prices edged up 2.7 percent in 1993, the smallest gain in seven years, as falling energy and tobacco prices and the lowest increase in medical costs in two decades helped restrain inflation, the government said yesterday. The Labor Department said the rise in its Consumer Price Index followed moderate increases of 2.9 percent in 1992 and 3.1 percent in 1991. Together, they gave the country its best three-year inflation performance since the mid-1960s. Analysts said they did not look for inflation to be a problem in 1994. Some are forecasting consumer prices may rise at an even slower pace than last year. In related news, purchases of autos and home goods pushed retail sales up for the ninth consecutive month in December and gave stores in 1993 their biggest sales increase since before the recession. Italian premier resigns

Italian premier Carlo Ciampi resigned yesterday, paving the way for parliamentary elections that would cap a wave of reform for Italy's political system. Mr. Ciampi, a former banker, was selected eight months ago as Italy's first premier not aligned with a political party. He focused on electoral and economic reform. Bodyguard named in attack

Tonya Harding's bodyguard told investigators that he and Ms. Harding's husband set up the attack that nearly knocked rival figure skater Nancy Kerrigan out of the Olympics, the (Portland) Oregonian newspaper reported. He said Harding's husband asked him to arrange the attack, in which Ms. Kerrigan was struck in the knee at the recent US championships. Woman barred from Citadel

Shannon Faulkner made history Wednesday when she became the first woman in the 151-year history of the all-male military college, The Citadel, to register for classes with the cadets. But her victory was cut short when the US Supreme Court granted the school's request to keep her from starting classes. Her lawyers have until Monday to respond to the appeal. Japan's newest justice

A woman will be appointed 1 of Japan's 15 Supreme Court justices for the first time in the country's history, Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa said yesterday. Hisako Takahashi, former head of the Labor Ministry's Women's Bureau, is expected to be confirmed and take up her duties next month. Wilder drops out

Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder (D) has dropped plans to challenge his archrival, Sen. Charles Robb (D) of Virginia, and said he will leave politics when his term as the nation's first elected black governor is up tomorrow. Mr. Wilder was elected in 1989, but his popularity slipped due to a presidential bid in 1992 and struggles to balance the state budget. Siemens announces layoffs

The German electronics giant Siemens expects to shed 15,000 jobs, the company said today in the latest sign of hard times in Germany's recession-bound economy. Declining retail sales in Germany are revealing how soaring unemployment has hit consumer spending. Blass's library gift

Fashion designer Bill Blass has given $10 million to the New York Public Library one of the largest gifts ever received by the institution. Half of the $10 million is designated for the library's unrestricted endowment. The remaining $5 million will help patrons use the Internet network.

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