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ETHIOPIAN REBELS defeated 12,000 government troops in fighting in the disputed northern area of Eritrea, according to a rebel statement issued in Sudan Saturday. The statement by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front said its forces had killed more than 7,000 soldiers, wounded 4,000 and captured another 1,100 in a weeklong battle some 38 miles south of the provincial capital of Asmara . . . FRANCE, in an unprecedented statement, said it carried out a nuclear test Saturday at its South Pacific testing site at Mururoa . . . PETER WEIR'S "Dead Poets Society" was named best foreign film Saturday at the David of Donatello awards, Italy's version of Hollywood's Academy Awards . . . LEFTIST REBELS attacked army positions Saturday just west of San Salvador, residents said, in the second day of intensified fighting in the 10-year-old civil war.