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News In Brief

By CompiledRobert KilbornLance Carden, and Caryn Coatney / July 17, 1998

The US

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The US Court of Appeals temporarily blocked the head of the president's security detail from testifying in the Monica Lewinsky probe. Special Agent Larry Cockell entered the courthouse, but left after the appeals-court decision. Administration lawyers had tried in vain to gain from district Judge Norma Holloway Johnson a last-minute reprieve to prevent him from testifying. The appeals court said its stay would remain until it decides whether to accept an administration appeal of court decisions ordering Secret Service agents to testify.

North Korea, Iran, and Iraq will be able to hit the US with missiles sooner than previously projected, a bipartisan panel said. The Commission to Assess the Ballistic Threat to the United States said such countries would be able to cause "major destruction" in US cities "within about five years of a decision to acquire such a capability" - 10 years in the case of Iraq. The panel, chaired by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, did not spell out in the unclassified version of its report the present ability of any country to target US cities.

The Senate voted to exempt food and medicine from unilateral US embargoes against other nations, except those judged to support terrorism. The senators also gave Clinton the power to waive, for up to a year, most economic sanctions against India and Pakistan.

A long-delayed request for $18 billion for the International Monetary Fund is likely to be approved by the House, majority leader Richard Armey said. He predicted the full amount eventually would be approved now that the IMF has depleted its resources. There were initial indications Republicans would allocate only $3.5 billion for a new emergency fund and delay action on $14 billion for the IMF's main account.

General Motors and the United Auto Workers Union were to schedule a hearing with an arbitrator after a US judge denied a GM motion asking for immediate arbitration. He told attorneys for GM and the UAW to set up a meeting with independent umpire Thomas Roberts for a ruling on whether ongoing strikes are legal under the UAW-GM contract. Separately, a UAW local at GM's Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., set a Sunday strike-authorization vote for 7,000 members. Spring Hill is General Motor's last US plant producing vehicles in the wake of recent union strikes.

Because of the GM strike, US industrial production plunged 0.6 percent in June - its steepest decline in five years. The Federal Reserve attributed most of the decline to an 11 percent dropoff in auto production.

Clinton was to lobby Congress for passage of a Democratic proposal to better protect the rights of medical patients. It differs significantly from a new Republican plan, outlined by Sen. Don Nickles of Oklahoma. Democrats attacked the GOP measure as inadequate and late. The more narrowly drawn GOP version expands tax-exempt medical savings accounts and limits patients' ability to sue health plans.

Clinton was expected to sign a bill passed by the House that would allow developing countries in the tropics to reduce burdensome debts to the US. The measure, already approved by the House, would forgive portions of debts that are unlikely to be repaid in full if such countries take concrete steps to protect endangered forests. To be eligible, they must have democratically elected governments, progressive human rights and anti-drug records, and be implementing economic reforms.

Clinton is blocking for another six months penalties for doing business with Cuba, spokesman Mike McCurry said. The president's waiver of the so-called Helms-Burton sanctions law effectively blocks lawsuits by US citizens seeking compensation for confiscated property used by foreign companies doing business with Cuba.

The World

The Communist-dominated lower house of Russia's parliament rejected two key elements of President Boris Yeltsin's economic austerity package required by international lenders before they will release $17.1 billion in vital new loans this year and next. The State Duma opposed a land and sales tax crucial to Yeltsin's package and made clear that a long debate was likely over other proposals.

Internal dissent forced Japan's ruling party to postpone its choice of a new prime minister despite mounting pressure to name a replacement quickly and focus on the troubled economy. After Ryutaro Hashimoto's resignation earlier this week, Foreign Minister, Keizo Obuchi appeared the likely choice in backroom negotiations. But younger party members balked, saying "voters are demanding an open debate." The party now is expected to name a new leader next Friday.