News In Brief

By , Suzanne L. MacLachlan, and Peter Nordahl

THE WORLD

Trying to break the stalemate in Middle East peace talks, leaders of Israel, Jordan, Egypt, and the Palestinians are expected to meet for an unprecedented summit today in Cairo. The peace process has been badly shaken by Muslim militants' attacks on Israelis and by Israel's continued building of settlements on land claimed by the Palestinians. The summit will also discuss the stalled negotiations between Israel and Syria, although Syrian President Assad was not invited.

Italian premier Lamberto Dini won a senate confidence vote, completing parliamentary confirmation of his nonpartisan government. The conservative bloc, headed by Dini's predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi, refrained from voting but pledged support for his programs. Dini told the Senate he expects his government to last only as long as it takes to implement key measures, including new taxes and spending cuts to pare Italy's huge deficit. Dini plans drastic cuts and changes in the nation's pension system, something Berlusconi tried but failed to do.

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The Ulster Unionist Party, an important parliamentary ally of British Prime Minister Major, has threatened to bring down his government. The problem: published excerpts of British-Irish proposals for Northern Ireland, including the creation of an authority to deal with issues affecting all of Ireland. A spokesman for Major denied this would mean British-Irish ``joint authority,'' a major fear of Protestants opposed to uniting the country. After the report came out in the Times of London, Major immediately scheduled a national TV address on Northern Ireland. (Story, Page 7.)

Dutch authorities ordered the evacuation of thousands more people, as swollen rivers threatened to smash dikes and flood villages and towns across the central Netherlands. Up to 250,000 people were urged to leave low-lying areas in the southeast. Officials said the whole polder (land reclaimed from the sea) could soon flood, threatening about 40,000 people living there. Meanwhile, the Rhine River dropped somewhat, allowing cleanup work to begin in Cologne, Germany.

The first of 8,500 Cuban refugees in Panama were returned to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The refugees were originally brought to Panama from Guantanamo because of overcrowding there, but Panama agreed to keep them only until March 6. Despite the Cubans' unwillingness to leave, no resistance was reported.

The peso and Mexican stock market rallied in reaction to Clinton's new rescue package for Mexico. After the announcement Tuesday, the peso gained 9 percent, and the stock exchange had its best one-day advance since 1988. Clinton assembled the $51 billion international package after the $40 billion in loan guarantees he proposed to Congress ran into a firestorm of criticism. (Story, Page 1.)

Peru refused to agree to a cease-fire with Ecuador, but will meet with Ecuadoran negotiators and the Rio Protocol group, who drew up the border that has been a source of contention since 1941. About 30 soldiers on both sides have been reported killed since the conflict began last week. Peru, meanwhile, has stepped up the flow of troops sent to the remote border region.

Bosnia's prime minister said he was optimistic the US will lift the arms embargo against his country but acknowledged there were no firm commitments. In testimony before the House, Haris Silajdzic accused Western nations of aiding the militarily stronger Serbs by refusing to lift the embargo. In Sarajevo, Serbs opened a key road to international charities but kept the route closed to everyone else. A convoy of UN ambulances arrived in the capital carrying sick or wounded Bosnian Muslims. THE US

The Index of Leading Economic Indicators rose 0.1 percent in December, the Commerce Department said. The gain, the 14th in 17 months, was less than many economists predicted. The index aims to predict economic activity six to nine months down the road. Meanwhile, Commerce reported that construction spending rose 2.7 percent in 1994, the strongest gain in a decade, pushed by a 1.1 percent rise in December. The reports came as the Federal Reserve Board met again to consider raising interest rates for the seventh time in a year to head off inflation. Most observers believe the Fed will raise rates.

US automakers continue to report record earnings. Ford said it earned $5.3 billion in 1994, topping General Motors' record $4.9 billion in profits. But industry growth may be slowing: Ford has added sales incentives to its new minivan and cut production at several plants to reduce dealer inventories. Rising interest rates concern analysts.

The Secret Service wants to fingerprint welfare applicants to fight fraud. The recommendations respond to a General Accounting Office report on fraud in the $25 billion food-stamp program. An anonymous service official said the agency wants a nationwide system of fingerprinting any applicant for federal aid. An ACLU spokeswoman called it a ``humiliating'' approach and said it would not stop most fraud, which involves not reporting income. New York and Los Angeles County are testing similar programs.

House Leaders expected to pass the unfunded-mandates bill yesterday. The bill, already passed by the Senate, would require Congress to pay for regulations and laws it enacts. The House will move on to consideration of a presidential line-item veto, which would allow the president to cut specific spending programs from congressionally approved budgets.

Washington Mayor Barry was set to declare an unprecedented state of emergency in the city to deal with a budget crisis. The move would allow the mayor to curtail spending without city council approval. The city faces a $350 million deficit.

A House committee approved a bill to streamline deportation of criminal aliens after they serve jail sentences. The proposal would require the federal government to reimburse states for the costs of incarceration. The committee also voted to remove exercise equipment from federal prisons. The vote is part of GOP attempts to rewrite last year's $30 billion anticrime bill.

The nation's 80,000 public schools need $112 billion in repairs, a report to Congress says. The GAO found that 13 million students attend the one-third of schools that need extensive repair or replacement and said some schools were unsafe or harmful to children's health. The report cited termites that ate library books and shelves in a New Orleans school and a Montgomery, Ala., school where a water-soaked roof collapsed 40 minutes after children had left.

Postmaster General Runyon called for new labor-management rules for the Postal Service and more freedom to change prices and introduce new products. He said the service should consider rates based on speed of delivery, volume discounts, combinations of electronic and printed mail, and other innovations. He also proposed offering postal workers merit pay instead of the current system based on seniority.

The trial of 12 men accused of planning a terror campaign in New York continued with a defense lawyer accusing the FBI of entrapment. He alleged that star government witness Emad Salem had been a key suspect in the World Trade Center bombing. Another lawyer claimed Salem knew in advance about the plan to bomb the office tower, but only told the FBI afterward.

The Mescalero Apache tribe voted to reject an agreement with a consortium of utilities to build a nuclear-waste strorage facility on tribal land in New Mexico. Tribal leaders had worked on the deal for 18 months. Etcetera

Denver Mayor Wellington Webb says his city's problem-beset new airport will open, for sure, by the end of February. The $4.2 billion facility, originally set to open in October 1993, has been delayed four times by project changes and a balky automated baggage-handling system that ate luggage.

Ben & Jerry's has a new CEO, business consultant Robert Holland Jr. The unconventional ice cream company held a contest titled ``Yo! I Want to be CEO!'' to find him. Applicants were told to submit a 100-word essay and the lid of their favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield will remain on as chairman and co-chairman respectively.

Phil Kahler became the first women's basketball coach to win 500 games in the NCAA's Division III when his team, St. John Fisher, beat Elmira 64-51 Tuesday night to run its record to 19-0. All of his victories have come in the 21 years he has been coaching at the small Roman Catholic school in suburban Rochester, N.Y.

Director George Abbott, who died at age 107 Tuesday, had a career that spanned 80 years and 125 plays, including ``Pajama Game,'' ``A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,'' ``Pal Joey,'' and ``Life With Father.'' Broadway reviewers praised his crisp, energetic style and his wisecracking dialogue.He staged his first musical in 1935, the circus-themed ``Jumbo,'' starring Jimmy Durante. His most recent work was the remake of ``Damn Yankees,'' which won eight Tony awards in 1955 and was nominated in 1994 for the best revival.

``Politics is really dirty, and especially for us. It is like we are a ball that Clinton and Fidel are playing with.'' - Jorge Sanchez Guerrero, a Cuban refugee returned from Panama to the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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