News Currents

MIDDLE EAST DEVELOPMENTS The US, in a last ditch effort to avoid war, yesterday said Secretary of State James Baker III was prepared to meet his Iraqi counterpart, Tariq Aziz, in Switzerland between Jan. 7 and Jan. 9...Visiting Jerusalem, UN General Assembly President Guido de Marco yesterday said the Gulf crisis and Israeli-Palestinian conflict must remain separate issues. De Marco met with Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy before heading off to the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip.... Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak left Cairo yesterday for Libya for a summit meeting with his Libyan and Syrian counterparts amid intensified international efforts to avert war.... Iran vowed yesterday to defend its borders and neutrality in any war between Iraq and US-led forces in the Gulf, with force if necessary.... The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has agreed to send the air wing of its rapid deployment force to Turkey to protect the alliance member from possible Iraqi aggression.... Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, showing no sign of heeding a UN ultimatum to quit Kuwait by Jan. 15 or face war, said he wanted peace but was ready to fight if necessary for its ``freedom, independence and dignity.''

UNITED STATES

In Boston, William Weld was to take the oath of office yesterday as the governor of Massachusetts and the state's first Republican chief executive in 16 years.... In Washington, D.C., Sharon Pratt Dixon was sworn as the city's mayor Wednesday; she is the first woman elected mayor of the District of Columbia.... The nation's major banks have cut their prime lending rates by half a percentage point, following the Federal Reserve Board's recent efforts to ward off recession by bringing down the rates it charges banks to borrow money.... Sales of US-built autos fell 17.7 percent in mid-December to their lowest level in eight years, according to figures released Wednesday by automakers.... The Interior Department said Wednesday it is examining the Japanese purchase of property and business rights in Yosemite National Park in a campaign to keep profit from the park from flowing overseas. MCA Inc. sold the park rights to the Japanese Monday.

ASIA AND THE PACIFIC

In Singapore, lawmakers passed legislation yesterday creating an elected presidency with vast powers to intervene in the life of the nation.... President Corazon Aquino said yesterday she wanted emergency powers for six months to cope with the impact on the Philippines of a possible war in the Gulf. The emergency powers would allow her to take over public utilities and businesses, suspend labor laws, and control supplies of oil, food, and other essential commodities.... Vietnam's communist government yesterday published a new law on private business that it hopes will boost private enterprise. The Law on Private Business gives private citizens the right to go into business.

LOOKING AHEAD

Monday: Pete Wilson to be sworn in as California's governor.... Wednesday: Fifth National Conference on Campus Violence opens in Towson, Md.

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