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The US

President Clinton thinks dismissal of Paula Jones's lawsuit was in the best interest of the country, but he would have preferred to have his day in court if he had not been in office, Time magazine said. In remarks reportedly made on his flight back from Africa, Clinton also said: "If I were just a private citizen . . . I would have mixed feelings about not getting a chance to disprove these allegations."

As Congress began a two-week break, Clinton took exception to GOP congressional budget plans, saying they fail to meet "urgent national priorities" and telling lawmakers changes would be needed before he would sign them into law. His remarks came after the Senate passed a $1.73 trillion 1999 budget, containing modest tax reductions and few elements of the education, child-care, and health programs he champions.

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

US payrolls shrank for the first time in more than two years last month, nudging the unemployment rate higher, the Labor Department said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the number of jobs dropped by 36,000 in March, the first such decline since severe blizzards shut down most businesses across the Northeast in January 1996.

Friends and admirers of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. held a commemoration in Memphis, Tenn., where the civil-rights leader was fatally shot April 4, 1968. Some 4,000 marchers traced much the same protest route King was scheduled to take before he was assassinated. Earlier, King's widow, Coretta Scott King, asked Clinton to name a panel similar to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that could grant amnesty to those who would come forward with information about her husband's death.

The annual evaluation of foreign countries' efforts to combat the flow of narcotics was criticized by Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the US drug-control chief. McCaffrey said the practice builds resentment in Mexico and impairs cooperation with the US in the fight against illegal drugs. A Senate effort to overturn US certification of Mexico was defeated by a vote of 54 to 45 last week. Decertification could have led to economic penalties against Mexico.

A disgruntled former CIA employee was charged with passing highly sensitive data to two unspecified foreign governments. Douglas Fred Groat could face the death penalty if convicted of espionage and extortion. In 1996, months before he was fired by the agency, Groat reportedly threatened to tell foreigners what the CIA knew about their cryptographic systems unless he was given a half-million dollars. Groat is the third current or former CIA employee to be arrested on espionage charges in the past four years.

The US Supreme Court was expected to decide today if 39,000 tobacco-industry papers should be made public as part of a $1.7 billion smoking-liability lawsuit in Minnesota. Justice Antonin Scalia referred the matter for full court review after receiving a second request from tobacco firms fighting lower-court orders to release the documents. Justice Clarence Thomas denied an initial stay request last week.

A Teamsters leader from Charleston, W.Va., was expected to announce his candidacy for the presidency of the union. A spokesman for Ken Hall, president of Local 175, said Hall would announce his intention to run against James Hoffa Jr. Hall was co-chairman of the Teamsters negotiating committee during last summer's successful strike against United Parcel Service. He has close ties to Ron Carey, who was forced out of the presidency because of illegal contributions made to his election campaign in 1996.

Negotiators for producers and actors extended their current round of contract talks to Friday, hoping to avoid the first actors' strike in Hollywood in 18 years. The current three-year contract expires June 30.

Shipping traffic on the Mississippi River kept flowing despite a tugboat pilots' strike for higher pay. Leaders of Pilots Agree, a loosely organized pilot group formed last year, said they were hopeful the strike would gain momentum this week.

The World

Israel said new suicide-bomb attacks by Islamic militants would make it "impossible" for peacemaking efforts with Palestinians to continue. Such attacks have been vowed by the militant Hamas movement in retaliation for the death early last week of its chief bombmaker, Muhyideen al-Sharif, whose remains were found next to a car that had exploded in the West Bank. Prime Minister Netanyahu said Israel had no hand in Sharif's death.

If the lower house of Russia's parliament rejects Sergei Kiriyenko, President Yeltsin's choice to be prime minister, he will be renominated immediately, a Kremlin spokesman was quoted as saying. But the unidentified Yeltsin aide said the president believes enough lawmakers will vote to confirm Kiriyenko that a new nomination will not be necessary. The vote is scheduled later this week. By law, if parliament turns down three presidential nominees, new national elections must be held.

Iran and Iraq announced measures aimed at improving relations still strained after their 1980-88 war. In Tehran, Iranian officials said they had agreed to a swap of all remaining prisoners from the war - estimated to be as many as 20,000. And in Baghdad, the tourism ministry confirmed a deal under which Iranians would be allowed to make pilgrimages to Muslim holy sites in Iraq. The two sides traded about 2,500 prisoners late last week.

New South Korean President Kim Dae Jung accepted a proposal by rival North Korea for relatively high-level discussions on issues of mutual interest. The April 11 meeting at the vice-ministerial level in Beijing would be the first direct, bilateral inter-Korean dialogue since efforts to arrange face-to-face talks between their presidents collapsed in 1994. Red Cross representatives from both countries have met for various food-aid discussions in China.

Asian leaders hoping for major new financial help from Europe returned home disappointed from a 25-nation summit in London. The Asia-Europe Meeting focused heavily on assurances that the launching of a unified currency next year would not turn European states inward. But it produced only small pledges of aid to help ease the effects of Asia's vast economic crisis. In other developments, Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto with British leader Tony Blair at a closing news conference, protested that his struggling economy could not act alone as the engine of growth in stimulating an Asian recovery.

On foot and in cars and buses, an estimated 2 million Muslims converged on the plain of Mena in Saudi Arabia, for a ceremony marking the final sermon preached by the Prophet Muhammad 14 centuries ago. Reports from the scene said the haj, or pilgrimage, has been free of political controversy or major incidents, such as last year's tent fire at Mena that killed 343 people.

Efforts to steer a controversial bill on Aboriginal rights through Australia's Parliament have deadlocked, with the vote only days away, a key legislator said. Prime Minister John Howard wants to limit the grounds on which Aborigines can lay claim to lands the government leases to farmers, ranchers, and miners. The Senate already has rejected the measure once, and Howard has hinted he would call an early election if it lost again.

Six hundred Ukranians were caught by a powerful explosion inside a coal mine. Officials said the cause probably was a spark that ignited methane gas mixed with dust. At least 63 miners died; 43 others were hurt. The mine, at Donetsk, was also the scene of the country's worst previous explosion, in 1992.

Etceteras

"Close the books? Stop the investigation? God has not closed the books and will not ... until the truth is out."

- The Rev. Gardner Taylor, in Memphis, Tenn., advocating a new probe of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Do you have kids who nag for things you've already said "no" to? Then you probably won't be surprised that the results of a new survey indicate you'll probably give in anyway. A Los Angeles research firm asked mothers of 3- to 8-year-olds to keep a two-week log of the times little Tara or Justin demanded something. Total nags: 10,000. Mom admitted 46 percent of the toys, 34 percent of the french fries, and 34 percent of the movie tickets she bought were because of the entreaties.

It began as an April Fool's hoax and evolved into a marketing concept. The Singapore Zoo advertised a special promotion: breakfast and an aerobics session with one of its orangutans. Almost 200 people called for reservations. Now, zoo officials think maybe they really should make such a deal available.

The city of Pittsburgh has had it with illegal parking - especially with 53 cars that have accumulated 2,201 unpaid tickets - and has ordered them "booted" with wheel-locking devices that prevent them from being driven. The owners? Well, actually there's only one: the Allegheny County Police Department.

The Day's List

Survey Ranks World's Most Dependable Cars

How do you rate vehicles for dependability? Answer: You survey owners of five-year-old cars. At least that's the way J.D. Power & Associates goes about it. And after polling some 28,000 owners, the market-research firm reports that Lexus and Cadillac rate No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, for the fourth consecutive year. The 1998 ranking of most-dependable 1993 model-year cars:

1. Lexus

2. Cadillac

3. Infiniti

4. Mercedes-Benz

5. Acura

6. Buick

7. Lincoln

8. Toyota

9. Audi

10. Oldsmobile

- Associated Press

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