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CROATS AGREE TO US AID FOR MOSTAR Bosnian Croats have agreed to allow food aid into the besieged city of Mostar, which received its first airdrop of United States military rations overnight. Cedric Thornberry, the United Nations civil affairs chief in former Yugoslavia, said Tuesday a convoy would bring 200 tons of food for some 55,000 Muslims trapped in the southern city's Muslim sector. That would be the first substantial amount of aid to reach the Muslims since the Croat siege of the city began two months ago. Another 50 tons is earmarke d for the Croat sector, across the river from the Muslims. Nigeria general strike

Public buses stopped running and thousands of people stayed home in Nigeria's largest city yesterday, the first day of a general strike meant to pressure the military ruler to step down.

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The government of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida said Tuesday that the general would retire today, and announce and swear in a new government. But by scrapping the results of the June 12 civilian presidential election, General Babangida has set the stage for the military to remain in power under civilian guise. Mixed economic signals

Two important figures show the US economy still in flux:

Sales of existing US homes rose 5.4 percent in July, the National Association of Realtors said yesterday. The lowest mortgage rates in more than 20 years, along with the traditional summer peak in buying, helped fuel the July increase, the fourth monthly sales gain in a row.

Meanwhile, orders to American factories for big-ticket durable goods plunged 3.8 percent in July, pulled down by a large drop in orders for aircraft and automobiles, the Commerce Department said yesterday. The decline was the fourth in five months and the worst since December 1991. Russian troop movements

Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced yesterday in Poland that his country's last troops would leave Poland by Oct. 1, three months ahead of schedule. Mr. Yeltsin also said that Russia recognizes Polish sovereignty and would pose no objection should Poland decide to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

In related news, a top Russian diplomat on Tuesday scoffed at Lithuania's demand for $146 billion in compensation for 50 years of Soviet rule. He said Russia was prepared to make a counterclaim for former Soviet property left on Lithuanian soil.

Relations between the two former Soviet states have worsened in recent weeks as talks have broken down over the withdrawal of Russian troops stationed on Lithuanian soil. Indian leaders back down

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In a major policy setback, the Indian government has withdrawn legislation to ban use of religion in politics after failing to draw enough parliamentary support.

The package was a centerpiece of Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao's legislative program. He had pledged to crack down on fundamentalism after a frenzied Hindu mob tore down a 360-year-old mosque on a disputed holy site in December. Sudanese refugees

An estimated 60,000 Sudanese have poured across the border into northern Uganda over the past few days in a dramatic upsurge in the refugee crisis. A total of about 106,000 people have fled into Uganda since the government launched offensives against rebels in southern Sudan on Aug. 5, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said yesterday.

Wal-Mart pricing

A judge's decision in a lawsuit by three Arkansas small-town druggists that claims predatory pricing by Wal-Mart could cause ripples felt throughout the nation's retailing industry, lawyers said.

Both sides rested their cases Tuesday after two days of testimony in a nonjury trial in which the nation's largest retailer defended its practice of selling some items below cost to attract customers as sound business strategy.

The three drugstore owners accused the company of scheming to drive them out of business. Wal-Mart has been blamed for the demise of some long-established merchants in small cities around the country.

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