News In Brief

By , Cynthia Hanson, and Peter Nordahl

THE US

President Clinton ordered an investigation into recent price surges at the gas pump. He also asked the Energy Department to sell about 12 million barrels of petroleum reserves to bring the price down. Also, the White House said it is willing to discuss Republican calls for a repeal of Clinton's 1993 gasoline tax increase. Gas prices are the highest they've been since the Gulf war.

Palestinian President Arafat planned to meet with Clinton in the Oval Office today - the first time he will have been received in Washington as a national leader. Israeli Prime Minister Peres met with Arafat yesterday. Also, Clinton and Peres planned to sign an antiterrorism accord that formalizes US support for Israel in combatting guerrilla attacks. The two leaders also were to discuss ways to move ahead the Middle East peace process. On a lighter note, Peres met opera star Jessye Norman in New York.

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Lawyers in the Oklahoma City bombing case plan to argue today whether suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols should be executed if convicted.

The FBI asked a Montana state assistant attorney general and legislator to meet with the "freemen" antigovernment group. The group requested the meeting to discuss setting up a forum at the state capitol for them to present their case. They also requested immunity from arrest while traveling to the statehouse in Helena. Also, The New York Times reported that Ralph Clark, who heads the group, and his ranch partner received $676,082 in government farm subsidies over the last decade.

A pending storm threatened to stall search efforts for former CIA Director William Colby, whose canoe was found Sunday on a sandbar in Maryland's Wicomico River about a quarter mile from his vacation home. Searchers began dragging the river bottom, and tracking dogs were added to the search team. Police haven't ruled out an accident or foul play.

The UN is out of money and says it will have to borrow from its separate peacekeeping fund to stay afloat. The shortfall is due to Japan, Germany, and the US delaying millions of dollars in payments, a UN official said. Washington owes the most: $1.5 billion. But recent US legislation earmarked about $600 million for the UN, and Congress might approve further funds in October.

Cuban immigration was expected to dominate Senate debates on the illegal immigration bill. The bill would eliminate a law that entitles Cuban immigrants to claim permanent legal residence one year after they arrive in the US, legally or illegally. Also, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld government restrictions on travel to Cuba.

Relatives of Americans killed in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 filed a suit against Libya for $10 billion under a provision of the new antiterrorism law. The law allows for lawsuits for personal injuries caused by terrorist acts allegedly committed by countries the State Department lists as exporters of terrorism. Separately, a Cincinnati federal appeals court threw out a decision awarding $15 million from Korean Air Lines for pain and suffering to families of five people killed in the 1983 downing of a KAL plane in the Soviet Union.

Consumer confidence in the economy surged in April as concerns over finding jobs dropped to a six-year low, the Conference Board reported. Also, wages and salaries rose 3.2 percent in the year ended in March, matching the gain in the 12 months ended in March 1992. But benefit costs were up just 2.2 percent, tying for the smallest increase on record.

The Postal Service placed limits on credit-card sales. The post office began accepting credit cards a year ago as a convenience for individuals and small businesses. But credit sales suddenly became popular with big mailers, too, who sometimes charged tens of thousands of dollars. So post offices stopped accepting credit cards for postage meter payments, bulk mail fees, and payment into business advance-payment accounts.

THE WORLD

Fighting erupted between rival factions in Liberia after the collapse of a 10-day-old truce that forced the government to flee its headquarters. The renewed fighting threatens hopes for a peaceful end to the urban warfare that has turned the capital into a battle zone.

Workers in the Congress of South African Trade Unions held a one-day strike protesting the new constitution. Workers are opposed to a proposed provision that would let employers lock out employees during labor disputes. The constitution is to be adopted next week, if last-minute differences can be worked out.

Christians and Muslims united to mourn at a mass funeral for the 91 Lebanese killed in an Israeli attack on a UN base in Qana.

Three Bosnian Muslims were killed and about 20 more were injured in clashes between Bosnian Muslim refugees trying to visit their homes in Serb-held territory and Bosnian Serbs blocking their way. A Bosnian Serb was also killed in the conflict, the Bosnian Serb news agency SNRA said. These were the first fatalities since January in increasingly frequent clashes that are testing the Dayton peace accord, which guarantees ref-ugees the right to return home.

US clean-air gasoline rules discriminate against imports from Brazil and Venzuela, the World Trade Organization ruled in Geneva, upholding an earlier decision against the US. It was the first trade dispute to be appealed before the year-old organization. Also, telecommunications deregulation talks may be put on hold in Geneva, rather than risk collapse of the multibillion-dollar deal. Under a WTO compromise, countries would freeze existing offers until next April. They could then review the deal and pull out if not satisfied.

As voting for parliamentary elections continued in India, police were authorized to open fire on people seen disrupting the elections in Bihar. Also, Prime Minister Rao's Congress party was facing a rout in Uttar Pradesh, the country's biggest state, dimming its chances of forming the next government.

A Brazilian policeman on trial with two other policemen and a civilian for the 1993 Candelaria massacre confessed unexpectedly to killing a Rio de Janeiro street child. Eight children were murdered when gunmen opened fire on dozens of homeless children in Candelaria Square. Human-rights activists say police routinely murder children suspected of stealing.

Colombia's Finance Minister Guillermo Perry resigned, citing the country's political crisis threatening the government. It was the latest blow to President Ernesto Samper, who is being investigated on charges that he accepted money from drug cartels to finance his 1994 campaign.

Spain's Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez and two top Socialists were formally cleared by the Supreme Court of charges that they took part in a 1980s "dirty war" against Basque separatists. Also, an agreement with moderate Basque nationalists guarantees conservative Jose Aznar a larger majority for his investiture as prime minister next Saturday.

The UN officially shut down its five-year observer mission in El Salvador amid complaints that it is leaving its task of ensuring peace unfinished.

Venezuelan teachers returned to work after a nationwide strike that kept 6 million children out of school for almost two months. The teachers received a 100 percent pay raise.

China rejected a Taiwanese call for more talks, saying the island must first abandon its plans to rejoin the UN. Separately, Beijing banned photographs of the exiled Dalali Lama in Tibet, the Tibetan Information Network, a human rights group, and a Tibetan newspaper reported.

ETCETERAS

"How can you lament ... mayhem in movies you've never seen, and then ... vigorously oppose the v-chip and do nothing to improve the television our children watch every day." -- Vice President Gore, criticizing Senator Dole and House Speaker Gingrich over their stand on TV programming.

Tomorrow is a National Day of Prayer. President Clinton, in proclaiming the annual event, said, "I encourage every citizen ... to pray ... seeking strength from God to face the challenges of today ... and giving thanks for the rich blessings our nation has enjoyed."

The US donated $20 million to help protect Mexico's diverse wildlife. About 10 percent of Earth's land species are native to Mexico, which leads the world in indigenous reptiles and is second in mammals.

The National Weather Service is gearing up for this summer's Olympics in Atlanta. The service will have 23 staffers in two offices focusing on special forecasts for the events. The games begin July 19, a time of year when thunderstorms can be a problem in the humid South.

The Mongolian Army fired rainmaking shells into the sky, triggering a six-inch snowfall that put out a huge fire that was threatening to engulf the capital city of Ulan Bator. The snow extinguished the blaze 19 miles from the capital, but fires continued to rage elsewhere, devastating much of Mongolia's forests and pastureland, government officials said.

Chuckles, chortles, and guffaws filled phone lines as Texans called Ripley's Believe It or Not hoping their laughs would be the strangest. Ripley's held an "Oddest Laugh in Texas" contest with a $350 prize.

THE DAY'S LIST

Good Ol' Reliable

These are the most-dependable cars after five years of ownership, according to a study by J. D. Powers and Associates. All are 1991 models.

1. Acura NSX

1. Lexus LS 400

3. Infiniti Q45

4. Mercedes-Benz 300 Series

5. Mercedes-Benz 300SL and 500SL

6. Cadillac Eldorado

7. Toyota Cressida

8. Buick Century

9. Cadillac Brougham

10. Porsche 911

- J.D. Power and Associates

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