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NEWS CAPSULES

Around the world

EU: The European Union leaders launched plans Friday to open their trading bloc gradually to the former Soviet satellites of Eastern Europe and endorsed projects that would create 15 million new jobs. At an Essen, Germany, meeting presided over by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, the 12 leaders set no date when the first East European nation can join. They also didn't decide how to pay for the public works projects, worth $111 billion, that would create high-speed roads, rail lines and energy plants. With its "pre-accession" strategy for Eastern Europe, the EU is trying to improve its neighbors' economies to the point that they can one day join the trade bloc.SUNK: A cargo ship sank in a storm on the North Atlantic on Friday, forcing its 31 crew members to abandon ship in 30-foot waves and 50 mph winds with rescue hours away. The Ukrainian-registered Salvador Allende began taking on water Thursday night and sank early Friday 750 miles southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The ship was carrying rice and headed for Helsinki, Finland, from Texas. U.S. Coast Guard airplanes dropped radio and emergency supplies to 11 crew members in a lifeboat and an unknown number of others clinging to debris.

WIFE: Yasser Arafat used to explain his long bachelorhood by declaring he was married to a bride named Palestine. But now the PLO leader's former office manager has undercut that revolutionary image, saying she was his secret, flesh-and-blood first wife. In a disclosure almost as remarkable for its source as for its content, Najla Yassin told an Israeli newspaper Friday that she dumped her husband for Arafat in 1967, and lived with him 18 years. "I am the only one who really understood him," Yassin was quoted as telling the Haaretz newspaper.

Across the nation

SHARK: A commercial diver was killed by a great white shark off the coast of Southern California Friday, authorities said in Santa Barbara. The 42-year-old man was diving for sea urchins near San Miguel Island off Santa Barbara when the shark attacked him. It was only the fourth attack in the area by a great white, the killer shark depicted in the "Jaws" movies, in about the last 40 years. The man was attacked off San Miguel, one of a chain of small, uninhabited islands known as the Channel Islands, at about 9:30 a.m. PST, said Coast Guard Petty Officer William Atkinson.

NOT SANTA: Santa Claus made an unexpected appearance at a suburban Cleveland savings and loan office Friday - taking an undisclosed amount of money during an armed robbery. FBI agents said two men entered a branch of the Third Federal Savings and Loan Bank late Friday morning and, displaying a package they said contained a bomb, ordered tellers to give them money. Both men were described as white males, about 30 years of age - one dressed as Santa Claus.

In Washington

ANTICIPATION: Your 1994 tax forms are in the mail. But you won't get them until after the holidays. Contractors for the Internal Revenue Service have begun mailing the tax packages as third-class mail. The U.S. Postal Service plans to hold the packages at its local offices, with carriers being told not to deliver them until Jan. 3.

Other news

PAKISTAN'S leading humanitarian, Abdul Sattar Edhi, often compared to Mother Teresa because of his tireless work for the poor, has fled the country after receiving several death threats. . . . A 13-YEAR-OLD boy who has a record of scrapes with the law was charged Friday in Camdenton, Mo., with killing two security guards over a speedboat. . . . RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil, paused Friday to say goodbye to Antonio Carlos Jobim, whose "Girl From Ipanema" and other songs spread Brazil's music around the world and sparked the bossa nova craze of the 1960s.