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Police fired warning shots and tear gas yesterday to break up 3,000 rioters blocking traffic on a highway outside New Delhi to protest the massacre of 24 Hindus in Punjab State's bloodiest Sikh terrorist attack. Police were placed on maximum alert in New Delhi and Punjab state to prevent retaliatory riots over Sunday's attack. All public demonstrations were banned in New Delhi, where anti-Sikh rioting had erupted last July after similar slayings of 14 Hindu bus passengers in Punjab.

US seeks information on anti-apartheid leader

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State Department officials are continuing their efforts to make contact with a recently detained prominent South African critic of apartheid and police treatment of prisoners. ``We're all over the case,'' says one State Department official, referring to the detention of the Rev. T. Simon Farisani, a Lutheran pastor. The US Embassy in South Africa is in daily contact with State Department officials here on the case, as US officials there try to locate Mr. Farisani.

Mr. Farisani, arrested Nov. 22 by police in the so-called ``independent'' homeland of Venda, South Africa, is believed to be in a police station in Venda, according to Amnesty International, which fears he may be tortured. He was recently in the US under the auspices of the US government and has made several visits to this country for Amnesty International.

After a previous detention in 1981, he alleged he was tortured in confinement and sued the Venda authorities. He was paid damages in an out-of-court settlement. Amnesty International reports that one of the arresting officers this time had been named by Mr. Farisani as a torturer in the 1981 detention.

Reagan set to introduce new security measures

President Reagan is secretly carrying out a sweeping overhaul of the nation's defenses against foreign spies which calls for more than 100 security changes from the doors of defense plants to communications satellites in space, White House officials say. The changes are the product of studies by Mr. Reagan's National Security Council staff and are described in a 50-page secret report sent earlier this month to the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.

The report promises an executive order from Reagan next year establishing the first governmentwide minimum standards for background investigations of federal and contractor employees before they are cleared to see classified information. The Defense Department has been directed to carry out possible proposals to station Defense Investigative Service agents permanently inside large defense plants and to provide monetary or administrative penalties for contractors with security lapses and bonuses for those with tight programs.

GM says computer chief resigning from its board

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General Motors Corporation said Monday it had accepted the resignation of H. Ross Perot from its board of directors and that he would be replaced as chairman of Electronic Data Systems Corporation, the computer concern he founded and sold to GM in 1984. GM agreed to buy back the shares in the company held by Mr. Perot, who has been critical of the carmaker and its management, for an estimated $700 million.

Israel OKs arbitration in Taba issue with Egypt

Israel's Cabinet formally accepted an agreement with Egypt Sunday to submit to arbitration of their four-year-old dispute over the tiny Taba coastal strip. An international arbitration panel will begin deliberations next month in Geneva over the Red Sea beach strip, which Israel retained after withdrawing from the rest of Sinai in 1982 under a landmark peace treaty with Egypt. Egypt also claims sovereignty over the area.

The arbitration accord, reached in September this year after lengthy negotiations, requires the ratification of both governments.

Socialists win plurality in Basque Parliament

The Socialist Party won a plurality in Sunday's election for the Basque regional Parliament for the first time since home rule took effect in Spain's northern area in 1980, according to official returns. The Socialists are in power in the federal government in Madrid, and the election result could contribute to an improvement in relations between the restive Basque region and the government of Prime Minister Felipe Gonz'alez.

Final results gave the Socialists 18 seats in the 75-seat Basque Parliament to 17 for the previously dominant Basque Nationalist Party. A majority of the parliamentary seats went to local Basque parties.

Apartheid foes launch white business boycott

Anti-apartheid activists launched a Christmas boycott of white-owned businesses around Johannesburg yesterday. The boycott is intended to protest the almost six-month-old state of emergency and to call for Soweto and other nearby black townships to be merged with Johannesburg and governed by a single, multiracial council. In addition to white-owned stores, businesses owned by members of the current Soweto town council are also targets of the boycott leaders.

France rules out joining action against Syrian

Prime Minister Jacques Chirac yesterday ruled out France's joining common action against Syria, saying only direct aggression against France could change relations between Paris and Damascus. Mr. Chirac, in a television interview, said France had to maintain normal relations with Syria because of its historical interests in the Middle East, particularly in Lebanon.

Both Britain and West Germany have accused Syria of involvement in planning terrorist attacks and have recently taken action against the government of Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Keeping funds from states on drinking age is at issue

The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether federal highway money may be withheld from states that fail to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21. The justices said they will hear arguments by South Dakota authorities that such a federal law unconstitutionally weakens state powers.

Congress in 1984 passed a law requiring the secretary of transportation to withhold part of the federal money otherwise available to a state for highway construction if the state permits ``the purchase or public possession ... of any alcoholic beverage'' by someone under 21.

South Dakota sued Secretary of Transportation Elizabeth H. Dole after the law was enacted in an effort to block any reduction in funding.

Superpowers OK outline of pact, Kampelman says

US and Soviet negotiators have agreed on a major weapons treaty and will try to narrow their differences at a special session starting today, Max Kampelman, the head of the American team, said yesterday. The special session will include the leaders of the US and Soviet teams, which have been negotiating separately over the past 21 months on long-range nuclear missiles, medium-range missiles, and space weapons.

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