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President Reagan, toning down his pre-summit rhetoric, credited the Soviet Union yesterday with modest progress in human rights. ``Over 200 political prisoners have been released from the gulag, there's a higher rate of [Jewish] emigration, some long-divided families have been reunited, there has even been a relaxing of some of the controls on freedom of expression,'' he said.

But Mr. Reagan vowed he would not be lulled into ignoring the fact that ``the apparatus of the state repression remains intact.''

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South looking to North in Korean plane bombing

After threatening to end talks with its communist rival on the 1988 Olympics, South Korea yesterday put its 120,000 police on full alert and searched for proof of North Korean involvement in the suspected bombing of a Korean Air Lines flight earlier this week. Meanwhile, officials in Bahrain were still trying to identify an Asian couple who took poison before questioning about the jetliner, which vanished with 115 people aboard. One had died, the other remained in critical condition.

Iran says more forces will be moved against Iraq

Iran is mobilizing its forces on an unprecedented scale for its war with Iraq, Muhammad Javad Larijani, Tehran's special envoy, said yesterday. His comments followed two days of peace talks with UN Secretary-General Javier P'erez de Cu'ellar. Mr. Larijani said progress was made at the talks, but he said Iran would not order a cease-fire until the Security Council or an impartial UN panel formally declared Iraq the aggressor. ``Nobody in the world prefers a military solution to a diplomatic solution,'' he said earlier. ``The question is which has the greater chance of success.''

Tamil-Indian cross fire kills 37 in Sri Lanka

Thirty-seven people were killed in a battle between Indian soldiers and Tamil guerrillas in Sri Lanka, security sources said yesterday. The sources said the battle flared when separatist rebels of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam ambushed a military convoy and attacked it with mortar bombs and machine guns. Nineteen of those killed were civilians, who were hit in the cross fire, the sources said.

2 election campaigners killed in Philippines

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Two men campaigning in Philippine regional elections were killed by guerrillas yesterday, and Southeast Asian leaders said the nation's violence forced them to cut short their summit meeting here. The shootings, which took place in different parts of the country, were the first election-related violence since campaigning for the Jan. 18 vote began this week, police said.

Senate committee OKs deficit-reducing package

The Senate Finance Committee yesterday approved a deficit-reducing package that raises $9 billion in fiscal 1988 and $14 billion in fiscal 1989. The package is composed of few taxes that would affect large numbers of people. Instead it relies mostly on the closing of loopholes in the US tax code.

West Germany cuts a key lending rate

West Germany cut its discount rate yesterday, leading a round of European interest-rate reductions designed to promote international economic cooperation and give a boost to the sagging dollar. The rate cut from 3 percent to 2.5 percent follows a Bonn government investment package announced Wednesday. A meeting of the Western industrial powers on economic issues is expected in the next few weeks, economists said.

Journalist in Bangladesh held under emergency law

Having imposed emergency laws last month to help end demonstrations against President Ershad, Bangladesh's government has arrested more than 2,700 people, claiming the power to detain people without trial. On Nov. 23, Ataus Samad, a contributor to The Christian Science Monitor and a reporter for the British Broadcasting Corporation, was taken into custody by government security troops. No reasons for the arrest were given, nor was there a warrant. Mr. Samad was being held under armed guard in a hospital.

For the record

FBI helicopters circled over the prison compound in Atlanta for more than an hour yesterday in what Cuban inmates holding nearly 100 hostages claimed was a ``war of nerves'' aimed at ending their siege. Guillermo Ungo, leader of El Salvador's Democratic Revolutionary Front, said yesterday that rightist death squads remain intact and that if he and other politicians return to political life, ``we end up in the cemetery.''

A terrorist suspect in US custody says Nabih Berri, Lebanon's justice minister, ordered the 1985 hijacking of a Jordanian airliner, but the Shiite Muslim Amal militia said the charge is ``ridiculous''.

Thirty-six Polish tourists defected to West Germany, border police said Wednesday, as their tour bus returned from a weekend trip with only the driver and tour leader aboard.

The Iranian government is resuming diplomatic relations with France and is planning to name three diplomats to its mission in Paris tomorrow, Tehran radio reported yesterday.

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