News Currents

THE GULF About 100 jubilant American troops from the 24th Mechanized Infantry Division, bound for Fort Stewart, Ga., were the first to leave the Gulf battleground for home Thursday.... US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Richard Neal said Wednesday there are still 26 Americans listed as missing in action, and British officials said eight Britons remained missing.... Iraqi and allied officials met in Saudi Arabia Thursday to discuss missing soldiers and the fate of two dozen Western journalists who disappeared earli er in the week while covering unrest in southern Iraq.... Iraq, which has ordered all foreign correspondents to leave Baghdad, accused the Western media Thursday of spreading lies and belittling Iraqi and Arab achievements.... Saddam Hussein named Ali Hassan al-Majid, one of his cousins, to stop a rebellion sweeping through southern Iraq. Hassan ordered the gassing of 5,000 Kurds in 1988 and was de facto governor of Kuwait for part of Iraq's brutal occupation.

UNITED STATES

Engineers for NASA Wednesday tentatively cleared the shuttle Atlantis for blastoff around April 4 after deciding hairline cracks similar to those grounding the shuttle Discovery did not pose a safety threat.... Inspector General Susan Crawford told a Senate hearing Wednesday that 62 percent of over 1 billion spare parts for US weapons checked last year did not meet government specifications and 17 percent of them should not be used.

MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA

A senior Israeli spokesman said Thursday there was nothing new in President Bush's call for territorial concessions to achieve peace. US Secretary of State James Baker III is due in Israel Monday as part of a peace-seeking Middle East tour.... Israel plans to double the number of Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip despite US objections, opposition members of parliament said Wednesday.... The Bush administration MDNM has notified Congress it will sell Egypt 46 F-16 jet fighters and more than 1,600 bombs and missiles for $1.6 billion, the Defense Department said Wednesday.... A key witness in the trial of Winnie Mandela said Wednesday in Johannesburg that the anti-apartheid leader punched and whipped him and three other activists, then danced ``to the rhythm'' of an ensuing assault by her followers. Giving the first direct testimony in the month-old trial, Kenn eth Kgase said he and the other black activists were beaten by Mrs. Mandela and her followers at her Soweto home on the evening of Dec. 29, 1989.

LOOKING AHEAD

Sunday: Foreign investors' conference in Ho Chi Minh City, organized by UN industrial development organization. Wednesday: Ready to wear autumn/winter fashion shows in Paris (until March 20). Thursday: Official opening of La Escondida copper mine in Antofagasta, Chile, world's second largest.

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