The United States State Department has issued a strong protest over the use of a chemical tracking compound by the Soviet secret police, the KGB. US Embassy officials here say the chemical, known as NPPD, has been applied ``indirectly'' to US diplomats here by the KGB in order to track their movements.
The State Department is now conducting tests to determine whether the chemical, one of a group of what are called ``mutagens,'' are said to cause cancer and birth defects.
US Charg'e d'affaires Richard Combs told the American community in Moscow, during a series of briefings, that there is no immediate cause for alarm, but admitted that not much is known about the chemical.
Ironically, much of the published material about NPDD is from Soviet researchers.
Embassy officials say the chemical, along with other tracking agents, has been in use by the KGB for years. But they say they have only recently become aware of how widespread its use has become.
Mr. Combs said the protest was delivered to the Soviet government ``in very strong terms,'' but would not say what the Soviet response was.
Dr. Charles Brodine, the State Department's assistant director for environmental health and preventive medicine, says NPPD is a ``moderately toxic chemical'' that does not occur in nature, and there have been few studies on it.
It is only detectable when applied in fairly large quantities, and it then appears as a white dust. But it is odorless and in small quantities is impossible to detect.
Embassy officials say they do not know how the KGB detects the chemical or how it is used in tracking. They confirmed that discoveries of its presence have been made, but declined to reveal where or how for fear it might compromise US intelligence-gathering techniques.
Some diplomats and journalists said they had long suspected that the KGB was employing toxic substances, and that these revelations confirmed those suspicions.
The US State Department is bringing in a team of experts to Moscow to sample the substance and test its toxicity. It is expected here in about 10 days.
South African poet wins reprieve but admits killing
Benjamin Moloisi, a black poet and upholsterer, won a last-minute reprieve from the gallows Tuesday. He now admits he took part in the murder of a policeman, but says he was under pressure from the African National Congress (ANC), his lawyer said Wednesday. A white judge granted Mr. Moloisi a three-week stay of execution to allow his defense team to prepare fresh evidence about the 1983 murder of black policeman Phillipus Selepe. His lawyer, Priscilla Jana, said she will petition President P. W. Botha for a retrial on the new evidence.
The ANC is fighting a guerrilla war against the white minority government.
House may hold up final vote on defense outlay, Aspin says
Rep. Les Aspin (D) of Wisconsin, in a letter to President Reagan, has warned that the House may hold up a final vote on this year's $302.5 billion defense authorization bill. Mr. Aspin said comments by two Reagan officials indicate the administration needs to be ``straight ened out'' about Congress's intent on domestic spending and the MX missile.
Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger has said the administration doesn't see the 50-missile cap on the MX as permanent, while White House spokesman Larry Speakes said Mr. Reagan may try to limit domestic spending to amounts contained in an early budget proposal. A compromise budget, with higher spending figures, has cleared Congress.
Egyptian police questioning suspect in diplomat's death
Police arrested an Egyptian Wednesday whose car is believed to have been used in the killing of an Israeli diplomat, police sources said. They named the man as Osama Ali and said he was being interrogated. Albert Atraghji, administrative attach'e at the Israeli Embassy, was killed Tuesday while driving to work when three unidentified gunmen opened fire from another car in Cairo's Maadi District.
Mr. Ali's car was found abandoned in a Maadi side street. Police said the gunmen apparently used another vehicle to escape.
40,000 Filipinos demonstrate to mark Aquino assassination
More than 40,000 Filipinos took to the streets yesterday in antigovernment demonstrations to mark the second anniversary of the assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino. Mr. Aquino was killed Aug. 21, 1983, at Manila airport upon his return from three years of self-imposed exile in the United States. Many had believed he might succeed President Ferdinand E. Marcos, who dismissed the demonstrations against his government as a waste of time.
Swiss Red Cross official is released in Lebanon
A Swiss Red Cross official missing since Monday was released yesterday, a Swiss Embassy source reported. Stephan Jaquemet, Swiss head of the Red Cross mission in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon, was reported to have been kidnapped by unidentified gunmen on Monday on the coast road from Sidon to Tyre.
Icahn apparent victor in attempt to get TWA
Trans World Airlines has apparently cleared the way for a takeover by New York investor Carl Icahn. TWA directors endorsed Mr. Icahn's $24-a-share offer for TWA's stock Tuesday, which could cost Icahn $1 billion. They rejected a request by Texas Air Corporation, which had reached a friendly merger agreement with TWA, to block Icahn's bid.
Judge's ruling on copyright of Christian Science textbook
A US district judge has ruled unconstitutional the extended copyright on Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson wrote that the 75-year copyright extension granted by Congress in 1971 was in violation of the US Constitution, which states: ``Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .'' The suit was brought by two former church members who claimed that the Boston-based Church of Christ, Scientist, has been suppressing the distribution of Science and Health.
Church officials commented Wednesday that ``nothing could be further from the denomination's intent or practice since the book was first published in 1875.'' Church spokesman Nathan A. Talbot pointed out that ``The church has made every effort to have the book as widely available as possible. Not only is Science and Health distributed through Christian Science Reading Rooms in thousands of large and small cities, but over the years the book has been placed in countless public libraries, widely advertised
in newspapers and book trade journals, offered to bookstores, and given free of charge to thousands who have expressed interest in reading it.''
Mr. Talbot added that the church's ``motive in seeking the copyright was to safeguard the integrity of a religious text that is widely read, not only by Christian Scientists, but by a large segment of the public interested in religious teachings. It was the view of Congress, after open hearings, that this extension was legitimate. Whatever the outcome in the courts, our concern for the book -- and for the public's ready access to an accurate representation of a major religious figure's writings -- is un derstandable.''
The church has indicated that it will appeal the ruling.
Because of a typographical error, a front-page story Wednesday incorrectly said the Cuban revolution was in 1967. It began in 1957. --30--