News In Brief

The US

President Clinton warned Iraqi President Saddam Hussein not to be emboldened by raucous protests expressed at an internationally broadcast town meeting at Ohio State University. He made the comments to reporters after his national security team struggled to be heard over hecklers while trying to voice the administration's position on Iraq. There was also solid support in the hall for the US stand and anger that the hecklers disrupted the event. Earlier, the administration said nuclear weapons wouldn't be used in a US air strike.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 76 percent of respondents approve of air strikes on Iraq. But 69 percent said they would prefer to see the stalemate over UN weapons inspections resolved through diplomatic pressure and economic sanctions. A CBS News poll found 77 percent in support of bombing the country.

Democratic fund-raiser Maria Hsia was indicted on charges of conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions from the Buddhist Progress Society to political candidates and committees, the Justice Department said. It also alleged the scheme used straw donors. The temple was named as an unindicted co-conspirator.

Deputy White House counsel Bruce Lindsey arrived at a Washington courthouse flanked by 10 other Clinton lawyers. Lindsey was to appear for a second day before a grand jury probing the White House sex scandal. The slew of lawyers indicated the White House might invoke executive privilege for Lindsey. Meanwhile, attorney and Clinton friend Vernon Jordan's appearance was postponed. Jordan reportedly met four times with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky, exchanged several phone calls, and received a package from her by courier. The contacts occurred from early December to mid-January - a week before she was subpoenaed to testify in the Paula Jones lawsuit.

A group of lawyers and business people announced formation of a new legal defense fund for the Clintons. Former US Sen. David Pryor (D) of Arkansas, who led the effort, estimated the Clintons currently owe about $3.2 million. But an article in the National Legal Journal put their legal bill at more than $8 million - before the Lewinsky controversy.

A sharp deterioration in December pushed the US trade deficit for 1997 up 2.4 percent to its highest level in nine years - $113.7 billion, the Commerce Department said. The imbalance with China climbed to an all-time high: $49.7 billion, the worst with any country other than Japan. Exports of goods and services rose 9.9 percent to a record $932.3 billion. But imports hit a record as well: rising 9 percent to $1.05 trillion - the first time they have topped the 1 trillion mark.

Clinton outlined a five-year plan to spend an additional $2.3 billion to strengthen programs to fight water pollution from cities, agriculture, and industries. It is largely a reworking of existing programs and an effort to improve coordination among federal agencies, states, and communities to control tainted runoff that winds up in the nation's waterways.

A US military helicopter on a search and rescue training mission crashed in central California's Sequoia National Forest, killing at least four people. An observer on the ground said he saw smoke coming out of the plane before the crash. Meanwhile, a US Air Force B-1B bomber crashed into a muddy pasture in Marion, Ky., moments after its crew of four ejected safely. The co-pilot said the plane lost control on a training mission.

Legendary baseball broadcaster Harry Caray, who died in Rancho Mirage, Calif., was known for his folksy chatter and such classic phrases as "Holy Cow!" and "It might be, it could be, it is - a home run!" His career spanned 53 years.

The World

Saying he'd been advised to "be firm in substance and show flexibility in form," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan left Paris for his planned meeting in Iraq with President Saddam Hussein. Annan was reminded of warnings that the US and Britain maintain they have ultimate say over any settlement he might negotiate in the weapons-inspections crisis.

Protests increased in several countries to an attack against Iraq by US-led forces. In Athens, a bomb damaged a General Motors dealership, with police saying they suspected an anti-US guerrilla group was to blame. Italian peace activists vowed to serve as human shields at likely Iraqi targets. On the West Bank, Israeli police fired live ammunition into the air to disperse pro-Iraqi marchers.

Reaction around the world to the raucous public forum in Ohio over building public support for an attack on Iraq was quick. Canada's CBC network called it a "disaster." To Britain's Sky TV, it was a "failure" for US leadership. France's LCI Television said it was a "fiasco." Japan's NHK-TV said it made President Clinton's job "tough" as he tries to rally the public. In Moscow, the Kremlin said the broadcast "wasn't grounds for Russia to restate its position" against a US-led assault.

Mexico's most-wanted narcotics traffickers cross the US border into California regularly, a top government prosecutor said. Mariano Herran Salvatti said police had videotape of one of the brothers Arellano-Felix traveling unhindered across the border. The brothers are suspected of conducting recruiting missions among San Diego street gangs. Meanwhile, a senior Army and state police officer was arrested, apparently because of his ties to the country's disgraced antidrug chief. President Clinton must recommend to Congress by March 1 whether Mexico ought to be recertified as making satisfactory progress in the antidrug effort.

North Korea is willing "to have dialogue and negotiation" with rival South Korea's new government, a senior policymaker in Pyongyang said. Kim Yong Sun's declaration is a major policy change that could hasten the peaceful reunification of the peninsula, analysts said. In Seoul, aides to President-elect Kim Young Sam, who is to be inaugurated next week, welcomed the announcement.

Police and a group of armed kidnappers in the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia were in a standoff over the abduction of four UN military observers as the Monitor went to press. The two sides were attempting to negotiate the release of the observers - two Uruguayans, a Swede, and a Czech - in exchange for seven suspects arrested in a failed assassination attempt last week against President Edouard Shevardnadze.

In a surprise move, Denmark's prime minister called a national election six months early. Poul Nyrup Rasmussen said the March 11 vote would allow for formation of a new parliament before the country votes again May 28 on whether to ratify terms for membership in the European Union. Many Danes are only lukewarm about surrendering sovereignty to become an EU member.

Vietnam allowed foreign reporters into a volatile province that has been the scene of political unrest for almost a year. But a spokesman said the violent demonstrations in Thai Binh, 50 miles south of the capital, Hanoi, were aimed at corrupt local officials, not the central government. At the height of the trouble, municipal buildings and police stations were attacked and police were held hostage.

Etceteras

I thought it was a good, old-fashioned American debate."

- President Clinton, playing down divisions at a town meeting at Ohio State University, where his national security team struggled to voice the administration's position on Iraq over the shouts of hecklers.

It's a safe guess that last Valentine's Day will always be memorable for Elizabeth Vanderhoof. She took her seat for a showing of "Titanic" at a Kenosha, Wis., theater next to her longtime boyfriend, Fred Conforti. When the house lights went out and the curtain in front of the screen parted, there was her name in pink lights against a red background. It was in a message from Fred, asking her to marry him. The audience erupted in applause as he produced a jewelry box, dropped to one knee, and offered a diamond ring. By the way, the answer was yes.

Politicial leaders and the journalists who cover them in France are having a hard time coming to terms with that ubiquitous communications tool, the cellular phone. Employment Minister Martine Aubry recently upbraided a reporter whose ringing phone interrupted her news conference. But the tables were turned when her colleague, Finance Minister Dominique Strauss-Kahn, felt it necessary to apologize after his cell phone did the same at a comparable event.

The Day's List

Cities With Top Records For Snuffing Out Smog

"The average number of days with poor air quality dropped by nearly two-thirds" in the nation's largest urban areas over the last decade, according a newly released report by The Road Information Program (TRIP), a nonprofit group based in Washington. After analyzing the federal Environmental Protection Agency's 1996 National Air Quality and Emissions Trends Report, TRIP attributed the improvements to cleaner vehicle engines and fuels. The top 10 smog-reducing cities in the US:

1. Seattle

2. Buffalo, N.Y.

3. Tucson, Ariz.

4. Tacoma, Wash.

5. Albuquerque, N.M.

6. Denver

7. Miami

8. Boston

9. Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, N.C.

10. Charlotte, N.C.

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