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The US dollar nose-dived to the lowest level against the Japanese yen since the 1930s, but later recovered a bit. The greenback was also down against other major currencies. A strong German mark forced a devaluation of the Spanish peseta and the Portuguese escudo, and the Italian lira hit a new low against the mark before a slight rebound. Perceptions that the US Federal Reserve is finished raising interest rates have weakened the dollar, while analysts believe German rates are due to rise. Lawyers said Barings bank lost 50 percent more money than earlier thought. Nearly $1.5 billion went down the drain in the merchant bank's collapse following bad futures deals by trader Nicholas Leeson. The bank said it had accepted a takeover bid by the Dutch ING group: The deal preserves the Barings name and 4,000 jobs.
In Estonia, a mix of technocrats, farm leaders, and low-ranking ex-Communists defeated reformers in parliamentary elections. The governing Fatherland Party and its partner, the Estonian Independence Party, were projected to get only seven of 101 seats in the new parliament. Winner Tiit Vahi of the center-left Coalition Party said it and the Rural Union party would continue free-market reforms, but keep a tighter social safety net.
Russia's interior minister fired Moscow's prosecutor and police chief. The move followed the gangland murder of a popular TV celebrity last week, which has fueled widespread public anger. Moscow Mayor Luzhkov had opposed the firings. Russia's Security Council was set to meet to consider anticrime measures. Meanwhile, Russian forces in Chechnya appeared poised for a ground assault on southern rebel strongholds following extensive air strikes.
Hong Kong voters rebuffed China, electing Democrats to 23 of 36 municipal-council seats. The largest pro-Beijing party won eight seats. In Beijing, Finance Minister Liu told the legislature defense spending would increase 21 percent in 1995 despite a rising deficit. He said the government wants to hold inflation at 15 percent.
Mexico's Congress was to begin debate on an amnesty bill to jump-start peace talks with Zapatista rebels. The rebels, in a letter written before details of the bill were announced, said they wouldn't negotiate with the government until the army stops hunting rebel commanders. In Mexico City, newspapers said the government will ask the US to extradite former federal prosecutor Mario Ruiz Massieu, whom US officials arrested last week.
Afghan President Rabbani's troops ignored a UN cease-fire and attacked a rival Islamic faction in southwestern Kabul. A UN peace plan calls for a multiparty council to take over from Rabbani March 21, but the 10 separate Islamic factions have not agreed on details.
UN peacekeeping troops traded fire again with Serb snipers in Sarajevo. One man was killed and two others injured in the shootings, which were a harbinger of fighting to come if a four-month truce is not renewed May 1. The Serbs also followed through on a threat to block overland relief convoys into the besieged Bosnian capital.
Nigerian magazines claimed that authorities thwarted a plot to overthrow the military ruler, General Abacha. At least 150 officers were arrested, including a brigadier general. A constitutional conference was scheduled to reconvene yesterday to draft a program for return to civilian rule.
UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali opened a huge antipoverty summit in Copenhagen. A senior UN official criticized President Clinton for not attending. He said a social summit without Clinton "is like playing Hamlet without the prince of Denmark. The US
Votes are set this week on several GOP bills that would give businesses the legal protection against consumer lawsuits that they have sought for years. The woman who was initially awarded $2.7 million after spilling McDonald's coffee in her lap is invoked as a symbol by both supporters and opponents. The proposals are part of House Republicans' Contract With America.
Acting Deputy FBI Director Larry Potts's future is in the hands of Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick. She must rule on FBI Director Freeh's unusual simultaneous recommendation that Potts be censured for poor management of the 1992 Idaho siege of white separatist Randy Weaver and promoted permanently to the FBI's No. 2 job. Potts's account of the siege is contradicted by the FBI's Salt Lake City chief.