News In Brief

THE WORLD

In an attempt to jump-start the Middle East peace process, President Clinton and Secretary of State Christopher met yesterday in Washington with representatives from Israel, Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO. The US had said it would not put forward any specific proposals during the one-day meeting. Peace talks are stuck over Israel's demand for a Palestinian clampdown on Muslim militant groups and Palestinian insistence that Israel open the West Bank and Gaza and stop settlement activity there.

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Egyptian President Mubarak toughened his stance in a dispute with Israel over nuclear weapons, saying he will not sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty until Israel does. Egypt, Syria, and six Gulf states have condemned international tolerance of Israel's refusal to sign the treaty.

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Peruvian President Fujimori warned that the conflict with Ecuador was moving toward a ''dangerous escalation,'' after Ecuador shot down three Peruvian warplanes. Fujimori ruled out the possibility that Peru would invade Ecuador, saying Peru wanted only to defend its ''territorial integrity.'' Former US President Carter said he would mediate the conflict with former Costa Rican President Arias if Peru and Ecuador ask them.

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In defiance of a six-week-old cease-fire, Serb forces appeared to be targeting the UN-declared ''safe area'' of Bihac town in northwest Bosnia, the UN said. Bosnian government troops said the Serbs are trying to retake territory and vital water supplies captured in a mid-January offensive. Meanwhile, the Yugoslav War Crimes Tribunal is expected to issue indictments today against a list of suspects allegedly involved in three Bosnian Serb-run concentration camps.

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Western aid workers said humanitarian relief efforts were gaining ground in regions around Chechnya. But because Chechen villages are still being battered by Russian air attacks, relief is limited almost exclusively to those outside regions. As fighting moved away from the capital, Chechen refugees began trickling back into Grozny.

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Mexican troops continued to surround guerrilla territory in the southern state of Chiapas, according to civilians fleeing the area. President Zedillo ordered the advance, after last week calling for the arrests of Indian rebel leaders. Guatemala said it had put its troops on alert to prevent Zapatistas from crossing the border.

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South African President Mandela failed to persuade 11 top members of the African National Congress Women's League not to resign. The women, who announced their decision over the weekend, cited poor leadership, undemocratic decisionmaking and practices, and lack of accountability in the organization. The ANCWL is headed by Mandela's estranged wife, Winnie.

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Austrian leaders and civilians buried four Gypsies killed in a terrorist bombing last weekend. It was the first such ethnically motivated killing in the postwar period. The men were killed trying to remove an anti-Gypsy sign posted on a road. A pipe bomb hidden inside exploded. The government has offered a reward for information leading to an arrest.

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A kitchen fire in the Philippines helped lead authorities to the suspected mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, according to a report in the New York Times. Ramzi Ahmed Yousef was apparently building bombs in his Manila apartment when he accidentally started the fire, the Times said.

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Angola's UNITA rebel movement approved the Nov. 20 Lusaka peace accord after earlier rejecting it, Reuters reported. UNITA said it approves all plans for peace in Angola and all steps toward national reconciliation. It also said it would encourage a meeting between Angolan President dos Santos and rebel leader Savimbi when conditions are right.

THE US

President Clinton vowed to veto any repeal of the provision in last year's crime bill that puts 100,000 new police on the streets. Republicans intend to lump the funding for the law's crime-prevention programs into $10 billion in block grants that local governments may spend on law enforcement or crime prevention. Meanwhile, the House passed two additional anticrime measures. One would boost federal funds for states prisons but deny money to state that don't imprison more violent criminals for longer te rms. The other provides for faster deportation of criminal aliens after they serve their sentences.

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The Senate voted to develop nonbinding proposals for shielding Social Security from spending cuts under a balanced-budget amendment. The move attempted to head off a tougher Democratic proposal by Senator Reid to require that any reductions exempt Social Security. Supporters reportedly still don't have the two-thirds majority needed to pass the amendment.

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Controversy continued around Dr. Henry Foster, Clinton's surgeon general nominee. U.S. News and World Report's latest issue says during the 1960s and '70s, Foster sterilized women considered severely retarded. The White House said it had the information before Foster was named, and that he and most doctors no longer consider such treatment appropriate.

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Massachusetts enacted one of the most sweeping welfare Reforms in the country. The law, signed by Governor Weld on Friday, cuts benefits by 2.75 percent, caps benefits for welfare mothers who have more children, forces able-bodied parents with school-aged children to go to work within 60 days, and sets a two-year time limit on welfare payment for able-bodied adults. It also halts welfare payments to teenage mothers who don't finish high school and don't live at home or in a group home. The state now mus t get waivers from the federal government to implement the program.

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Clinton staff chief Panetta warned Moscow that its plans to sell nuclear-power reactors to Iran could harm US-Russian relations. Speaking on NBC's ''Meet the Press,'' he declined to outline the consequences if Russia went ahead with the deal.

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Speaker Gingrich said he would consider repealing baseball's antitrust exemption after the House finishes enacting the GOP's ''Contract With America.'' He blamed the lawyers on both sides for prolonging the strike.

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A Rutgers University student group vowed to continue protests against university President Francis Lawrence. The state college's Board of Governors voted unanimously to keep him on, but condemned his comments regarding minority genetics and test scores. Lawrence has apologized for the remarks and said they don't reflect his true beliefs.

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Former NAACP executive director Ben Chavis charged that chairman William Gibson got a $3,000-a-month allowance. In an interview to be broadcast on CBS's ''60 Minutes,'' he also said Gibson knew that Chavis had used NAACP funds to settle a sexual-harassment claim. Gibson is under fire from other executive-board members; a leadership vote is set for Feb. 18.

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The space shuttle Discovery made a perfect landing, ending a historic rendezvous that clears the way for a shuttle to dock with the Russian Mir space station. Six such missions are planned over the next two years.

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Federal authorities charged AT&T middle manager Charles Brumfield and 16 other people, including his subordinate at AT&T, with $2.6 million in insider trading. The corporation was not accused of any wrongdoing.

ETCETERA

Nicole Bobek turned in perhaps the best performance of her career Saturday to upset heavily favored Michelle Kwan and win the women's title at the US Figure Skating Championships in Providence, R.I. In the men's competition, former US champion Todd Eldredge defeated defending champion Scott Davis to reclaim the crown.

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The mountain ranges of the world may be mostly rock and ice, but they are vulnerable and need to be protected, the Worldwatch Institute said. The importance of mountains, particularly as a source of water, will be one topic at a UN-sponsored conference Feb. 22-27 in Lima, Peru.

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An auction of artwork from Disney's ''The Lion King,'' raised almost $2 million, a record for animation art. The highest price paid at the 256-piece auction, held at Sotheby's Saturday in New York, was $39,100 for an image of the lion cub Simba with Pumbaa the warthog and Timon the meerkat.

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The works of more than 60 contemporary artists went on display in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, this weekend to mark the reopening of a room in the Renaissance palace that was badly damaged by a bomb in 1993. The exhibition is being held in the freshly restored ''Royal Mail Room.'' Its 750-foot glass ceiling was destroyed in the blast. Restoration was financed by public donations.

Top 10 Increase in Home Sales Rates

Rank/State/Sales/Percent Rise

1. Vermont 9,500 22.8%

2. Maryland 62,600 22.3%

3. Oregon 53,800 19.9%

4. Idaho 20,400 19.7%

5. Virginia 94,300 17.4%

6. N. Dakota 10,900 16.8%

7. New Mexico 26,600 15.6%

8. D. C. 12,000 15.5%

9. Washington 93,400 15.1%

10. Alabama 69,000 14.9%

(Percentage increase from October-December 1994 over the same period in 1993. Existing homes.)

- National Association of Realtors

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