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ARAFAT, PERES PUSH PEACE EFFORT PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met yesterday in Brussels with donor nations and also tried to bolster Middle East peace efforts. They were expected to debate a possible withdrawal of Israeli troops from West Bank towns and discuss dates for Palestinian elections. They may also discuss bringing forward negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem and the West Bank - talks not scheduled to begin until 1996. Violence in Gaza and the West Bank is putting pressure on negotiations. Retailers smile

The first weekend of the 1994 Christmas shopping season was a blast for retailers and their customers as consumers scooped up jewelry, big-screen TVs, and other top-dollar items. The weekend's strong results, which indicated consumers are more relaxed this year about spending freely for Christmas, augured well for the rest of the season.

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Western governors meet

The intense opposition in the West to Clinton administration environmental policies was to get an airing as governors began a regional meeting yesterday in St. George, a desert boomtown 270 miles south of Salt Lake City. Governors from 18 Western states and three US territories are expected to attend.

Spanish airport strike

Workers of the Spanish airline Iberia walked off the job yesterday to protest the company's plan to cut wages and sell assets. The strike grounded all outgoing Iberia and international flights and seriously delayed incoming flights from abroad at Spanish airports.

Ford returns to S. Africa

Ford Motor Company announced yesterday its return to direct operations in South Africa, taking a 45 percent stake in a South African company that assembles Fords, Mazdas, and Mitsubishis. Ford had pulled out of South Africa in 1988 because of international sanctions designed to move the country away from white-minority rule.

Volcano still erupting

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Mt. Merapi, which exploded last Tuesday in Indonesia, remained dangerous as hot lava and ash continued to pour out of its ruptured crater, experts said. Sixty-five emissions were recorded during a six-hour period yesterday.

Stoicism in Bhopal

The half million survivors in Bhopal, India, of the world's worst industrial disaster have grown stoic as they wrestle with meager compensation (see photo below).

The city, eerily silent after methyl isocyanate leaked from a pesticide plant run by an Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide Corporation just before midnight on Dec. 2, 1984, now throbs with activity.

The death toll eventually rose to nearly 4,500. Many of the inhabitants of a nearby slum receive a monthly payment of 200 rupees ($6.35). For some the entire compensation runs into hundreds of dollars, a large amount in India, where the average per capita income is $310 a year.

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