News In Brief

The US

The UN Security Council denounced Cuba's downing of two planes belonging to the Miami-based Brothers to the Rescue exile group. But the statement was much milder than what the Clinton administration had urged. And a senior Cuban official accused Cuban exiles of trying to provoke US military action against the island. Meanwhile, anti-Castro legislation scheduled for a Senate vote next month may be pushed up to this week. President Clinton announced he would seek a compromise with Republicans on a bill proposed by Republican Senator Jesse Helms. Clinton also called for a ban on charter flights to Cuba. (Stories, Pages 1 and 4.)

Pat Buchanan was counting on a win in Arizona's primary to keep his presidential bid's momentum going. But Senator Dole saw the Dakota primaries as keys to his success. All three states voted yesterday, though returns were not yet available. Also, in California, Buchanan and former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander are closing the gap on Dole, a Field Institute poll finds. Dole has 27 percent support; Buchanan has 18 percent and Alexander 16 percent.

Free air time for presidential candidates. That's what Rupert Murdoch says his Fox TV network will provide. He is urging the other networks to do the same, saying candidates spend too much time raising money for TV spots. But critics are questioning his motives. They say he is making the offer because he wants free digital spectrum. The TV industry is fighting a Senate proposal to make it pay for extra channels it will need to provide the higher-quality digital TV.

The White House replaced the top leaders of the National Reconnaissance Office. Director Jeffrey Harris and his top deputy Jimmie Hill were given other spy agency jobs after being blamed for slack financial management and eroding the agency's credibility. The agency manages the nation's multibillion-dollar spy satellites. The decades-old agency is so secretive that its existence wasn't publicly acknowledged until 1992.

The Republicans are working to extend indefinitely the Whitewater hearings, which are due to expire tomorrow. The Democrats are drafting a proposal to extend them up to six weeks. But that poses a problem for the GOP: Key Whitewater witnesses won't be available for that period.

Counterfeiting of US dollars is increasing overseas but so far poses no threat to the nation's economy, a congressional report says. Meanwhile, Iran may be behind millions of dollars of high-quality counterfeit US currency, The New York Times reported. Senior Clinton administration officials suspect Iran may be printing millions of $100 bills and that Syria may be sanctioning distribution of the bills.

Retail sales dipped 0.3 percent in January, the poorest showing in six months. Such signs of a weakening economy will prompt another drop in interest rates, analysts say. Wholesale prices jumped three-tenths of 1 percent in January because of a jump in energy costs.

The Justice Department is investigating Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's tour of Africa and the Middle East. Officials say Farrakhan's acceptance of a $1 billion pledge from Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi might make him a foreign agent. White House spokesman Mike McCurry called the trip, in which Farrakhan met with some anti-US leaders, a ''thugfest tour.''

Philips Electronics North America Corp. agreed to pay the US government $65.3 million to settle claims it sold improperly tested resistors and capacitors used in military aircraft, missiles, satellites, and radars. The government said it knows of no failures attributed to Philips parts.

Clinton gave Cabinet-level status to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA, which deals with disasters such as floods, blizzards, and wildfires, has greatly improved under his administration, Clinton said. The move is largely symbolic.

Big farms, city-dwelling landlords, and corporations would receive the biggest chunk of money under a Republican-backed overhaul of farm programs, an environmental group critical of the plan said. The Environmental Working Group reached its conclusions by looking at records of the nation's 1.38 million subsidy recipients.

The World

Palestinian police arrested some 110 members of the militant Islamic group Hamas, which claimed responsibility for two suicide bomb attacks that killed 25 people Sunday. Only two of the detainees are leading Hamas figures. Israeli Prime Minister Peres vowed to destroy Hamas and told Palestinian President Arafat to disarm Hamas militants living in the West Bank and Gaza. Arafat accused Peres of meddling in Palestinian affairs and cancelled a meeting with Israeli Army chief Amnon Shahak.

By a one-vote margin, Parliament voted to support British Premier John Major (above) in a row that followed an inquiry into arms sales to Iraq. Last week a three-year inquiry by Judge Sir Richard Scott found that ministers deceived Parliament about the military sales. With the 320 to 319 victory, Major averted the embarrassment of having to call for a vote of confidence in his government.

Hearings into accusations of war crimes by Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic began at the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. Martic admitted to ordering two cluster bomb attacks that killed seven civilians in Zagreb last May, but denies they constitute a war crime. Also, the Tribunal will hear a motion today seeking the release of a Serb general arrested by the Muslim-led Bosnian government.

Talks between Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, and British officials broke down without agreement. The meeting aimed to explore ways to stop the recent spate of IRA bombings and start negotiations. And Sinn Fein demanded a specific date to start all-party negotiations. Britain called the demand unrealistic, unless the IRA first guarantees a lasting cease-fire.

Iraqis in exile claimed armed struggles broke out in Baghdad between forces loyal to Saddam Hussein and relatives of two defectors killed last week. The claims, made from several world capitals, could not be independently confirmed. The defectors, both sons-in-law of Saddam Hussein, were allegedly gunned down by members of their clan for dishonoring the family.

Two top opposition leaders were arrested on the third day of a ''noncooperation'' strike that brought most of Bangladesh to a standstill. During talks with US Rep. Bill Richardson in Dhaka, Premier Khaleda Zia renewed her offer to negotiate an end to the two-year campaign to oust her. Zia's rival Sheikh Hasina rejected the overture.

Ontario was hit by its first-ever civil servants' strike - a protest against government plans to slash 13,000 jobs. The government rejected negotiations until union leaders scale down their demand for a $1.09 billion plan for retraining and severance benefits. Ontario offered a $109 million package.

Retracting a two-week-old decision, the Philippines said all Vietnamese boat people will be repatriated by the end of June. Manila said it cannot afford the cost of running the camps. At the behest of the Catholic Church, Manila earlier agreed to halt its repatriation program.

Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu held an unprecedented meeting with leftist rebels in Mexico City in a bid to strengthen peace talks, rebel leader Rolando Moran said. Government officials neither confirmed nor denied the meeting.

Asian and European activists met in Bangkok to discuss human rights abuses, French nuclear testing, and child prostitution. The meeting comes three days ahead of a 25-nation Asia and Europe summit in Bangkok that will include economic issues.

A Sudanese military transport plane crashed near Khartoum killing all 70 people aboard. It was unclear whether they were Army personnel. Military planes in Sudan often carry civilians.

Etceteras

Beijing laid claim to the 1996 Berlin International Film Festival's coveted Golden Bear award, describing winning director Ang Lee as hailing from China. The director, who comes from breakaway Taiwan, won a Golden Bear for best picture with ''Sense and Sensibility.''

A two-finger ''V'' sign may replace picture identification cards at the gates of Walt Disney World theme parks. ''Readers'' are programmed to identify season ticket holders by their index and middle fingers.

When the Hasbro toy company couldn't make its Nerf Glider fly right, it turned to NASA, whose engineers offered an aerodynamic redesign. As a result, Hasbro will soon offer four glider models: Two fly loops, two fly long distances.

Violence in school would be reduced if pupils were required to wear uniforms. That's the opinion of 70 percent of US public school principals. The National Association of Secondary School Principals surveyed its members who are meeting in San Francisco, USA Today reported.

Stellar Sports Salaries

Highest average annual salaries, with length of contract:

Baseball: Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle Mariners, $8.5 million, 4 years

Basketball: Patrick Ewing, New York Knicks, $9.4 million, 2 years

Football: Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, $6.25 million, 8 years

Hockey: Wayne Gretzky, Los Angeles Kings, $8.5 million, 3 years

Highest guaranteed salary packages:

Baseball: Barry Bonds, San Francisco Giants, $43.75 million over 6 years

Basketball: Larry Johnson, Charlotte Hornets, $84 million over 12 years

Football: Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboys, $50 million over 8 years

Hockey: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins, $42 million over 7 years

- Associated Press

'' Only Superman could have done it without Israeli aid.''

- Terje Larsen, the UN's top diplomat in Palestinian-ruled areas, quoting Yasser Arafat, who believes that Israeli and Palestinian extremists collaborated in planting the two bombs that exploded Feb. 25.

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