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With the guilty plea of two French secret service agents in a New Zealand court Monday, the French believe the infamous Greenpeace affair has been put to an undramatic end. The two agents, Maj. Alain Mafart and Capt. Dominique Prieur, pleaded guilty to charges of manslaughter and arson for their part in the July bombing of the Greenpeace protest ship Rainbow Warrior. A Greenpeace photographer was killed in the bombing.

The guilty pleas came after the New Zealand solicitor general dropped murder charges against the pair. It is reported that the two agents helped plan the bombing but did not carry it out.

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Instead of a long hearing and murder trial, in which the New Zealand police would have detailed evidence against the French secret service, the two agents will appear in court only once more, Nov. 22, for sentencing.

Initial signs here point to a diplomatic deal between Paris and Auckland. New Zealand Prime Minister David Lange has denied this assertion. But French diplomats had hinted that France would agree to compensate New Zealand and Greenpeace for damages in exchange for New Zealand's agreement to soft-pedal the scandal.

French officials contend that such an arrangement would be logical. For the Socialist government of President Franois Mitterrand, it averts the problem of Greenpeace dominating the headlines just as next March's parliamentary election campaign heats up. For New Zealand, it averts a spat that could endanger its exports to the European Common Market.

``Mitterrand wanted to `arrange' the affair,'' says Philippe Moreau Defarges of the French Institute of International Affairs. ``It made sense.''

Still, Mr. Moreau Defarges says, there are still basic conflicts between the French and South Pacific nations over France's ongoing program of nuclear testing in the region.

Argentine President scores broad gains in midterm vote

Argentine President Ra'ul Alfons'in has won broad support for his policies, including an economic austerity plan, in midterm elections that will increase his Radical Party's congressional majority, party leaders said. With 69 percent of the vote counted early yesterday, the Radicals had won 44 percent, against 25 percent taken by the various factions of the main opposition party.

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Christian Democrats pull strong Guatemalan vote

The left-of-center Christian Democratic Party took a firm lead yesterday in elections to return Guatemala to civilian government. On the basis of preliminary results, Christian Democratic presidential candidate Marco Vinicio Cerezo Ar'evalo will face Jorge Carpio Nicolle of the right-wing Union of National Center in a runoff ballot scheduled Dec. 8. Final official results are expected late yesterday or today.

Three dozen Soviet tanks seen at Cuban port, US says

Photographs taken by a US spy plane over Cuba Thursday disclosed that 35 to 40 Soviet T-54 and 55 tanks and other military equipment have arrived at the port of Mariel, possibly for shipment to Nicaragua, US officials said yesterday. The officials said they were not certain the tanks had been transferred to a Nicaraguan vessel. The sources left open the possibility that the tanks were earmarked for Cuba.

At the White House, spokesman Larry Speakes charged that there has been a ``steep increase'' in military shipments from the Soviet Union to Nicaragua.

13th suicide car bomber strikes in south Lebanon

Israeli-backed militiamen opened fire on a suicide car bomber in southern Lebanon yesterday, detonating the car and killing the driver, Israeli military sources said. The Syrian Social Nationalist Party, however, which issued a statement in Beirut claiming responsibility for the attack, said the driver had rammed the car carrying 660 pounds of TNT into an Israeli convoy, blowing up one tank and an armored personnel carrier and setting afire four jeeps carrying troops.

Sakharov, off hunger strike, says wife flies late this month

Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov spoke by telephone yesterday with relatives in the United States for the first time in six years. He said he has ended a hunger strike that may have spurred Soviet officials to let his wife, Elena Bonner, seek medical treatment in the West. Mrs. Bonner, who also spoke during the call, told the family that late this month she will fly for Siena, Italy, where she is to undergo an operation on her eyes, then travel to the US when she has recovered.

Pakistani opposition leader freed from her house arrest

Pakistan's military government freed opposition leader Benazir Bhutto from house arrest yesterday and placed her aboard a plane bound for Switzerland. She told supporters she would return. Miss Bhutto was released after more than two months of house arrest after asking permission to answer a summons to appear Nov. 6 before a French court investigating the death of her younger brother.

Supreme Court to rule on homosexual rights

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether the sexual activities of consenting homosexual adults are constitutionally protected. The court said it will review a ruling that could, if upheld, result in striking down Georgia's sodomy law and similar laws in other states.

The Supreme Court has not issued a detailed decision on the rights of homosexuals since 1967.

In other action, the court:

Agreed to consider reviving a federal law that bars anyone ever committed to a mental institution from buying a gun.

Gave the secretary of labor broad power to drop safety complaints against employers after investigations have begun.

Let stand a ruling states say could cost them control over many lakes and rivers within their borders.

Agreed to decide whether Maine may prohibit the importing of live bait fish into the state.

Lawyers to seek new trial in Atlanta black slayings

Lawyers for Wayne B. Williams, the man convicted in two of Atlanta's slayings of young blacks, say they have obtained new police documents in the case and will seek a new trial. USA Today reported yesterday that Williams's attorneys plan to charge that prosecutors violated laws requiring that the defense be given any documents helpful to its case. The newspaper said the documents include a memo that indicates an informant told authorities the Ku Klux Klan was involved in the string of killings or disappearances.

Chrysler workers in Missouri on strike over local contract

More than 2,800 Chrysler Corporation workers here went on strike yesterday for the second time in a month after negotiators for the automaker and United Automobile Workers Local 110 failed to reach agreement on a local contract. The plant was struck for 12 days last month as part of a national walkout by auto workers over a new national contract.

Ford to offer air bags on some cars next year

Ford Motor Company customers will be able to buy some cars with air bags as optional safety equipment starting in March, chairman Donald E. Petersen said yesterday. The move makes Ford ``the first American car manufacturer to make air bags available to the general public,'' said Joan Claybrook, former head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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