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The US

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr will report that White House aide Vincent Foster was not murdered , the Los Angeles Times said. It reported that Starr also has concluded that President and Mrs. Clinton played no role in covering up the circumstances surrounding Foster's death. Two earlier probes of his death by a gunshot wound in 1993 also have ruled out murder. Late last week, Starr reversed his decision to leave the independent counsel position Aug. 1 for a post at Pepperdine University in California.

In another report, the Times said special access to key Rep-ublicans in Congress was offered in exchange for generous donations by individuals and corporations. The newspaper said the offer was circulated in a fundraising letter from the National Republican Campaign Committee. A committee spokesman said, "Like it or not, we do it just as the Democrats do it." He said the access was not comparable to White House coffees made available to generous Democratic contributors.

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Former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor complained to the White House about being asked to grant favors to generous Democratic Party contributors, The Washington Post reported. Kantor told the newspaper that the practice left him "deeply concerned." The Post quoted former Democratic National Committee chairman Donald Fowler as saying he was just doing his job by telephoning such requests to Clinton Cabinet secretaries.

Congress returns from a one-week recess today to resume action on several high-profile issues: a constitutional ban on budget deficits, scrutiny of campaign fund-raising, and confirmation of two key Clinton administration appointees - Anthony Lake as director of central intelligence and Alexis Herman as labor secretary.

A high-powered Saudi delegation is due in Washington today to discuss a range of sensitive issues with administration officials. The two sides are expected to address defense, oil strategy, the Middle East peace process, and concerns over the probe of a bombing that killed 19 US military personnel in the kingdom.

Investigators in Atlanta sear-ched for links between an explosion inside a nightclub favored by homosexuals and two earlier bombings. The attack injured five people. Investigators said the nightclub explosion bore similarities to the Centennial Park bombing last July and the twin attacks in January on a clinic where abortions are performed.

The most powerful unmanned rocket in the US space fleet was scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Titan 4B mission is designed to deploy a $200 million satellite capable of detecting enemy missile launches like the Scud attacks on Israel and Saudi Arabia by Iraq during the Gulf war.

Chinese-made electrical products imported by the US often carry phony safety guarantees, according to the magazine U.S. News and World Report. It said the problem was detected first in 1993 by safety tester Underwriters Laboratories on Christmas lights that carried false seals of approval. Also found to be defective: extension cords and six-outlet power strips.

Twice in a nine-hour span, Continental Airlines jets made emergency landings at Cleveland's Hopkins International Airport. The airline said both were for precautionary reasons - one because of a steering problem and the other when an indicator light in the cockpit alerted the pilot to a hydraulic problem. No one was injured.

Robert Sarnoff, who helped to usher in the era of color television, died. Sarnoff headed NBC from 1956 to 1965. Among his other achievements: bringing presidential-candidate debates to TV, extending network newscasts to 30 minutes, weekend news programming, and racially integrated entertainment programs.

The World

Russian President Boris Yeltsin renewed his attack on NATO's expansion plans but said a compromise could be reached at next month's Helsinki summit with US President Clinton. Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov was in Brussels for talks with NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana. Both sides imposed a news blackout on the meeting, which followed an intensive bout of diplomacy aimed at overcoming Moscow's objections to NATO enlargement. Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that NATO expansion will cost more than $30 billion over the next 12 years. The US share: about $200 million a year.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin denied a request from Zhao Ziyang to attend tomorrow's memorial service for senior leader Deng Xiaoping. Diplomats say China's current leadership remains nervous of the influence of Zhao, now under virtual house arrest. Deng handpicked Zhao as his successor in 1987 only to sack him two years later for sympathizing with student demonstrators. Also, China banned an edition of the nation's most conservative magazine after it launched a veiled attack on Jiang.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hired a top lawyer to represent him in a probe of alleged government corruption. The lawyer confirmed reports that Netanyahu had been questioned by police last week and warned about self-incrimination. The case involves the alleged illegal appointment of an attorney general who had promised favorable treatment to a politician who is standing trial for fraud.

Prospects brightened for a peaceful solution to Peru's hostage crisis after rebel leader Nestor Cerpa Cartolini participated in the negotiations directly. It was the first time that Cerpa had left the Japanese ambassador's compound where Marxist rebels are holding 72 hostages. Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said the talks were "very constructive" even though there was no major breakthrough. The talks are being mediated by a panel of international diplomats.

Some 30,000 Rwandan refugees fled their camp in eastern Zaire, apparently to escape fresh fighting between rebels and government forces. Sources near Kalima said they believed the town had fallen to rebels, who now control a strip of territory about 600 miles long.

The Tajik government and Islamist rebels signed a reconciliation pact after a four-year civil war. President Emomali Rakhmo- nov and opposition leader Sayed Abdullo Nuri met in the Iranian city of Mashhad and agreed to set up an interim commission with 13 representatives from each side to work toward parliamentary elections. More talks are due this week in Moscow.

French police evicted about 400 undocumented immigrants from a Paris church they occupied to demand residence rights. The protest coincided with a large demonstration by French celebrities and other citizens against a proposed bill to tough- en immigration laws. The debate was reignited last summer when hundreds of Africans without work papers were forcibly evicted from a Paris church.

A fire at a Hindu religious gathering in eastern India killed more than 200 people and injured 300 others. More than 5,000 devotees had assembled to see a local sage when the thatched roof of a makeshift hall caught fire, survivors said.

Iraq has agreed to allow the UN to test wrecked components of its banned missiles, UN arms envoy Rolf Ekeus said. The tests - likely to be done in the US or France - will determine whether Iraq replaced sophisticated Russian-built engines with virtually useless Iraqi-made pieces before destroying the missiles. Iraq destroyed the missiles without UN consent in 1992.

Etceteras

I didn't consider it then, nor do I consider it now, to be appropriate."

- Former Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor, on requests that he use his position to grant favors to generous Democratic Party contributors.

Pat Boone's experiment with "something new" appears to have been as costly as it was brief. The gospel singer dressed for the American Music Awards in fake tattoos and the black leather garb usually worn by heavy metal musicians. So many fans protested that a Christian TV network canceled his weekly show. He may lose his affiliation with a charity golf tournament, too.

Polar Beverages hasn't said what it will do to try to keep its mascot from being kidnapped again. But it admits this is becoming bothersome. You'd think efforts to swipe Orson, a 20-foot-tall inflatable white bear that stands atop Polar's Worcester, Mass., headquarters, would be easy to spot. But somebody took him last month for the fifth time, even though the building has surveillance cameras. Happily, Orson was found unharmed in Connecticut.

Owners of Gremlins, Edsels, and Humvees have elevated their quirky vehicles to cult status. Now the same seems to be happening to the Russian Lada, a car built by the millions (see list below) but so unstylish and noisy that it became a laughingstock. One owner in Finland rejects all offers to buy his Lada - at any price.

The Day's List

From Model T to Mazda: World's Best-Selling Cars

In the history of the auto industry, nothing has outsold the Volkswagen Beetle, which is still being produced in Mexico and Brazil. Here are the 10 cars that have sold best, including the year the model was first produced and an estimate of its total sales (in millions).

1. VW Beetle, 1937, 21.2

2. Toyota Corolla, 1963, 20.0

3. Ford Model T, 1908 15.0

4. VW Rabbit, 1974 14.8

5. Lada Riva, 1970 13.5

6. Ford Escort/Orion, 1967 12.0

7. Nissan Pulsar/Sunny, 1966 10.2

8. Mazda 323, 1977 9.5

9. Renault 4, 1961 8.1

10. Honda Civic, 1972 8.0

- Russell Ash, "The Top 10 of Everything 1997"

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