News In Brief

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The US

Court papers alleged Clinton obstructed justice by withholding correspondence with former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey until after she accused him of making a crude sexual advance. Clinton's lawyer denied the charge and Willey's lawyer said he wouldn't take a position on the allegation. Lawyers for Paula Jones, who has accused the president of sexual harassment while he was governor of Arkansas, said they asked three months ago for papers concerning Willey.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich attacked President Clinton for failing to defend US foreign policy during his visit to South Africa. In announcing his candidacy for reelection to the House, Gingrich sounded more like a presidential candidate, telling supporters the president should have emphatically taken issue with South African President Nelson Mandela when he urged Clinton to make peace with Cuba and Libya.

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Former CIA Director James Woolsey joined the legal team of six jailed Iraqis, saying they would be sentenced to die if deported to Iraq. A US immigration judge determined March 9 that they were national-security risks and ordered them deported. The men were among thousands airlifted from northern Iraq to the US in 1996 after Saddam Hussein's government crushed opposition forces. The six men say they were members of CIA-backed opposition groups seeking to topple the Iraqi government.

San Francisco school officials sued the California Education Department for insisting that city schools give a new, English-only test to children who don't speak English. Superintendent Bill Rojas said the city was threatened with the loss of more than $30 million in US and state aid for not giving tests, which he said would violate civil rights of children who don't speak English and would yield invalid results. Gov. Pete Wilson has insisted on standardized testing in English.

Four US marines were charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide for a February incident in which their electronic-surveillance jet severed two gondola cables at an Italian ski resort, killing 20 people, the Marines Corps said. The crewmen of the EA-6B Prowler - who were based in Aviano, Italy, when the mishap occurred - also face other charges, including dereliction of duty.

Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush held commanding leads in an early presidential-preference poll. Among Democrats, 49 percent favored Gore. Civil-rights leader Jesse Jackson polled 9 percent. Among those publicly considering challenges to Gore, House minority leader Richard Gephardt polled a scant 4.5 percent, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley less than 4 percent, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey less than 2 percent. Bush led GOP voters with 31 percent, ahead of publisher Steve Forbes with 11 percent, former Vice President Dan Quayle's 10 percent, former Housing Secretary Jack Kemp's 9.5 percent, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich's 4 percent. The poll's statistical margin of error was a little above 5 percent.

Three Swiss banks agreed to negotiate a global settlement with Holocaust-era victims and their survivors and establish a massive fund to pay claims linked to dormant bank accounts, slave labor, and looted art works. Although the size of the fund must still be negotiated, the accord was praised as a major breakthrough by all sides in the dispute over the Swiss role in World War II. It was reached under the pressure of US sanctions against the banks.

Conditions in California's strawberry fields were the target of a protest march in New York that included feminist Gloria Steinem. United Farm Workers supporters said some 20,000 California workers - about half women and most not unionized - are not paid enough to feed their families.

The World

President Clinton flew to Botswana to meet outgoing President Ketumile Masire. Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were then to visit the Chobe National Park in Kasane as part of their six-nation tour. Earlier, Clinton met with South African President Nelson Mandela, outlined plans for an economic partnership with Africa, expressed contrition over the treatment of slaves in the US, and paid homage in Soweto to the children who led the first sustained black uprising against white rule in 1976.

US mediator Dennis Ross held talks with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in Gaza City to discuss a US proposal calling for an Israeli pullback from 13.1 percent of the West Bank over 12 weeks. Ross discussed the issue with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu earlier in Jerusalem. Israel's Maariv daily newspaper quoted Secretary of State Madeleine Albright as saying the process is nearing total collapse.

The EU plans to open negotiations in Brussels today to admit 10 East European nations and Cyprus to its ranks over the next decade. Formal membership talks are to begin tomorrow with the six "fast track" candidates - Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Estonia, and Cyprus. The other candidates, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, will head home to wait another five years.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was to discuss the Iraq crisis and UN reform today with Russian President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow. Also, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said his faction will oppose Yeltsin's nominee for prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko. And former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, sacked last week by Yeltsin, surprised Russians by announcing his candidacy for the 2000 presidential election.

International observers will be watching as Armenians cast ballots today in a runoff presidential election between Prime Minister Robert Kocharian, favored by political observers, and Soviet-era leader Karen Demirchian. The first round on March 16 was marked by significant voting violations. The economy is the top issue.

Ukrainians went to the polls in the nation's second parliamentary election since the 1991 Soviet collapse with hopes of breaking the country's political and economic paralysis. President Leonid Kuchma insisted in an election-eve address that the worst was over, but millions of pensioners and workers were expected to vote for the Communist Party and other groups promising a return to Soviet-style social guarantees.

On the eve of deposed co-Premier Norodom Ranariddh's return to Cambodia today, thousands of civilians fled fresh factional clashes near Khmer Rouge guerrilla headquarters in the north, government and opposition officials said. Ranariddh is returning to prepare for July 26 general elections.

The French government said it plans to introduce laws to tighten up the electoral system after the extremist National Front won a record 15.5 percent of the vote in March 15 regional elections. Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities throughout France to protest the anti-foreigner party.

At least 52 people, including 32 children under age 2, were massacred in south Algeria, authorities said. Two independent newspapers also reported that security forces killed 71 Islamic militants in two days in east and south Algiers. An estimated 75,000 people have died in Algeria since the military-backed government canceled 1992 elections the Islamic Salvation Front was tipped to win.

Etceteras

"There is a lot that I miss in my life in prison because there you could ... stand away from yourself and look at your track record and ... discover the mistakes that were made."

- South Africa President Mandela, after showing President Clinton the jail where he spent much of his 27 incarcerated years.

There's a new chapter in the annals of dubious punishments meted out by school administrators. In Evans, Ga., Greenbrier High students Mike Cameron and Dan Moxley were suspended for wearing shirts with Pepsi logos as students lined up to form the name of rival Coca-Cola for a photo in the parking lot. Company officials, visiting for a "Coke in Education Day" promotion, said they neither noticed nor were offended by the prank. But the principal, concerned it could cost Greenbrier a cash prize, called it "disruptive and rude."

At Hobbs High School in New Mexico, a student waits to find out if she'll be prosecuted for handing out fake currency as part of a project on counterfeiting. Big mistake. Her classmates were supposed to compare the bogus bills with real ones. But six of them were passed at local businesses - one of which is jointly owned by the police chief's wife.

The Day's List

Alaska Rates as the 'In' Destination for Cruises

The cruise-ship industry appears likely to ride the wake of "Titanic" to a prosperous season, an American Society of Travel Agents survey indicates. Fourteen percent of respondents said their offices experienced increased interest in cruises because of the Oscar-winning film. Top cruise destinations and the percentage of travel agents ranking each No.1:

Alaska 19.4%

Caribbean 12.8

Mediterranean 10.7

Europe 9.7

Costa Rica 5.3

South America 5.3

Mexico 4.9

Panama Canal 3.8

Hawaii 3.2

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