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Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite said yesterday he is ``cautiously optimistic'' that two American captives in Lebanon can be released soon. He ruled out an immediate return to Beirut, saying he would drop from public view and work through his Middle East contacts for the release of Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson and educator Thomas Sutherland. A church spokeswoman said Mr. Waite would be returning to London.

Parliamentary elections set for May by Aquino

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Philippine President Corazon Aquino scheduled national elections yesterday for May 11 to choose a new parliament and said elections for local officials would be held soon after. Mrs. Aquino called the elections an ``indispensable part of our normalization process.'' She said the date for local elections would be set later. She made no mention of any presidential elections, which Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and others have urged.

First of new US arms for contras delivered

The first large shipment of arms and ammunition to Nicaraguan rebels provided for by $100 million in US aid approved by Congress has arrived in Honduras, Honduran military officers close to the operation said Wednesday. The officers said a US transport plane arrived in Palmerola, the base of US operations in Honduras. The shipment was then shuttled to Aguacate, a major supply and logistics base for the Nicaraguan Democratic Force, a contra group, sources said.

Honduran officers said although this was not the first shipment since Congress approved the $100 million aid package for the rebels, it was the largest.

Israeli group off to meet PLO officials in Romania

An Israeli delegation left yesterday for Romania to meet with Palestine Liberation Organization officials, challenging an Israeli law forbidding contact with terrorist organizations. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir denounced the first public meeting between Israelis and the PLO, saying the members of the delegation to a writers' conference in Bucharest, Romania, would be prosecuted upon their return.

The host of the two-day meeting is the Romanian Writers Association. The airplane tickets for the 29 Israeli delegates were provided by the Romanian government.

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S. African Cape schools to stay closed in boycott

South Africa said yesterday it would not reopen 40 schools for blacks in eastern Cape Province until students boycotting classes agreed to return. The statement by Sam de Beer, deputy minister for black education, indicated a toughening of the government stand on the sporadic boycotts, which have disrupted black education in some black townships for two years.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils have stayed away to protest racially segregated education. They demand the removal of security forces from school premises and the release of pupils and teachers detained under South Africa's five-month-old state of emergency.

Palestinians in Lebanon girding to fight Shiites

Palestinians throughout Lebanon have been placed on maximum alert and are braced to launch a military offensive against Shiite Muslim militiamen, two Palestinian guerrilla organizations said yesterday. Meanwhile, Palestinian and Shiite Muslim gunmen behind barricades of sand fired antitank weapons at each other on the edge of Beirut's Borj el Barajneh camp.

At least 17 people were reported killed in heavy overnight fighting there between Palestinian guerrillas and the Shiite Amal militia.

China to buy $550 million in US radar for warplanes

China has signed an agreement to buy $550 million in advanced US radar and other electronics for Chinese-built F-8 jet fighters, the Pentagon said yesterday. A Pentagon spokesman said the Air Force will solicit bids from American defense companies on the deal that was accepted by China on Oct. 30 after a visit there by US Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger.

China is modernizing its armed forces and the Reagan administration offered this year to sell Peking defensive avionics kits, including airborne radars, navigation equipment, computers, and advanced cockpit displays.

Gulf nations urge Iran to stop shipping attacks

Persian Gulf Arab states urged Iran Wednesday to halt attacks on merchant shipping and respond to mediation efforts to end its six-year-old war with Iraq. A final communiqu'e at the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit meeting said the GCC states - Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates - were determined to preserve freedom of navigation in the waterway. About 80 merchant vessels have been hit by Iran and Iraq in the Gulf so far this year.

The GCC leaders did not announce any fresh peace moves but pledged to continue efforts to end the conflict.

Single parents head 26% of families with children

Single parents accounted for 26 percent of all family groups with children under 18 years old in 1985, according to a new Census Bureau study. Single-parent families increased 27 percent between 1980 and 1985. The study also found that 60.1 percent of black families with children were headed by a single parent, up from 35.7 percent in 1970. For whites, 20.8 percent had one parent, more than double the 10.1 percent of 1970.

The overwhelming majority of single-parent families are headed by women: nearly 86 percent for whites and more than 92 percent for blacks.

Soviets vow to ease exit rules

New regulations that come into force at the beginning of next year will allow Soviet citizens greater freedom of travel and a speedier resolution of requests to leave the Soviet Union, officials said Wednesday in Vienna. Under the new regulations, requests by Soviet citizens to leave or enter the Soviet Union will be processed within one month, Gennady Gerasimov, chief spokesman of the Soviet Foreign Ministry, told journalists. Under some circumstances the government may extend its deliberations, but for no longer than six months, Mr. Gerasimov said. Urgent cases, concerning for example the illness or death of a relative, will be resolved within three days, the spokesman said.

Generally speaking, all Soviet citizens who wish either to leave or return to the Soviet Union will be allowed to do so under the new measures, Gerasimov said.

But he added that there would be some exceptions. Those privy to state secrets or whose departure would in some other way endanger the security of the state would not be allowed to leave. Other exceptions would include those serving prison sentences, Gerasimov said.

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