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News In Brief

The South African rand soared in value yesterday, following strong measures introduced by the government. As currency and stock markets reopened Monday morning after a five-day government shutdown, the South African rand surged to almost 47 cents before dropping to around 45 cents in early trading.

The authorities closed foreign exchange markets last week after the rand plunged to a record low of 35.45 cents. Foreign creditors had refused to roll over billions of dollars of debt, creating a surge in demand for dollars to pay back the money and forcing down the rand.

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On Sunday, the government imposed sweeping exchange controls and a four-month ban on foreign loan repayments after the rand plunged to record lows because of foreign bankers' doubts about South Africa's political and economic stability.

Commercial banks quoted the rand at between 41 cents and 42 cents at the start of the day, up from a record low of 34.8 cents when trading was halted last Tuesday. South Africa's reserve bank was expected to quote rand rates later in the day rather than let the market prevail.

President P.W. Botha simultaneously issued a formal proclamation slapping exchange controls on nonresidents and tightening those imposed on residents in a 1961 law. About $12 billion of South Africa's $17 billion foreign debt is due this year.

Meanwhile, a strike called by black mineworkers today failed to attract mass support Monday, and miners' leader Cyril Ramaphosa accused mining companies of intimidating workers. The general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers said only about 10 percent of the 60,000 members called out had stopped work.

Police reported also two more deaths in rioting over the weekend, the type of continuing violence that caused a loss of confidence in the rand and brought it falling to record lows last week.

Gorbachev has high hopes for Reagan summit meeting

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev said in an interview published yesterday that US-Soviet relations were tense but that he had high hopes for the planned superpower summit meeting in November. ``Surely, God on high has not refused to give us enough wisdom to find ways to bring us an improvement in our relations, an improvement in relations between the two great nations on earth, nations on whom depends the very destiny of civilization,'' he said in an interview with Time magazine, his first interview with a Western news organization since taking office last March.

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In Washington, the State Department said ``If Moscow is prepared to meet us halfway on the various issues, however, there is no reason that the progress Mr. Gorbachev says he desires should not be possible.''

Libyan forces reportedly crush mutiny, coup attempt

Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi crushed a mutiny and arrested 43 military officers, a Cairo newspaper said yesterday. Al Ahram said that Col. Muhammad Barghash, commander of a Libyan air base near the Tunisian border, refused to order his pilots to carry out reconnaissance flights over Tunisia as a prelude to a reported invasion. He and 12 other airmen tried to bomb Qaddafi's residence instead, Al Ahram said.

Soviets in new move against Afghan rebel supply routes

More than 10,000 Soviet troops with tanks and helicopter gunships are trying to destroy Afghan guerrilla supply routes near the Pakistani border in a major new offensive, sources said yesterday. Officials of guerrilla groups, diplomatic sources, and others said that a Soviet force has been fighting for the past week to subdue guerrilla-held areas in Paktia province and wreck major routes used to bring weapons and ammunition across the border.

Lebanese Christians approve plan to disarm militias

Christian leaders have approved a new Syrian plan to disarm Lebanon's warring militias, radios and newspapers reported yesterday. The announcements raise hopes of a reconciliation conference to end 10 years of civil war. Meanwhile police said unidentified gunmen shot and wounded Hussein Haybi, a guerrilla leader loyal to Palestine Liberation Organization chairman Yasser Arafat yesterday in a refugee camp in southern Lebanon.

Pol Pot resigns as military commander of Khmer Rouge

Pol Pot has retired as military commander of communist Khmer Rouge guerrillas, one of three groups jointly fighting the Vietnam-backed government in Kampuchea, a spokesman here said yesterday. His successor is Son Sen, a long-time Khmer Rouge member.

Pol Pot ruled Kampuchea from 1975-79, during which time the Khmer Rouge killed more than a million Kampucheans. They were driven from power by Vietnamese forces.

Probe ordered into France's national railway

Executives of France's state-owned railway company have vowed to stage a thorough investigation into safety and operating procedures because of the nation's third train disaster in two months. The rail company, the SNCF, has been ordered by Secretary of State for Transport Jean Auroux to provide a ``very precise'' report on safety following a crash Saturday in which 42 people died and 86 were injured, many seriously.

The crash in the central town of Argenton-sur-Creuse was the worst in France since 1972. It followed a July 8 crossing accident in Normandy that killed eight people and a head-on collision on Aug. 3 in which 33 died.

W. German defector says he left of his own free will

Former West German intelligence officer Hans-Joachim Tiedge has written authorities in Bonn that he defected to East Germany of his own free will, West German officials said yesterday. The defection of Tiedge, who had been in charge of West German counter-intelligence against East Germany, fueled one of the most serious spy scandals in West German history.

China publishes trade figures for the first time since 1949

China published full balance of payments figures yesterday for the first time since 1949. Foreign bankers welcomed the report, calling it another step in Peking's opening itself up to the outside world.

Hodel may allow more oil drilling off California coast

A tentative plan to open 150 tracts off the California coast to oil and gas exploration may not be enough to meet the nation's needs, Interior Secretary Donald Hodel said Saturday. Hodel said he may not go along with the compromise he reached in July with five California congressmen. Under that compromise, 150 nine-square-mile tracts would be offered for exploration in an exchange for extending a moratorium on the state's remaining 6,310 undeveloped offshore tracts until the year 2000.

The current moratorium banning new exploration in California tracts expires Sept. 30.

Contractors can't be suedover nuclear-weapons testing

A federal judge, citing a recent change in the law, has forced the families of 33 victims of nuclear-weapons testing to drop their suits against the US government and its contractors. US District Judge William Schwarzer upheld a law passed last year that treats contractors in nuclear test programs as federal employees. He ruled that under immunity granted to the federal government, neither the United States nor its contractors may be sued for compensation.

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