IRAQ REACTS TO US STRIKE Iraqi troops laced the sky over Baghdad with anti-aircraft fire June 29, but there was no indication of a new US attack, and an Iraqi official said the gunners might have fired on one of their own planes by mistake. The shooting underscored the tension gripping Baghdad since the US missile attack on the Iraqi intelligence headquarters, which killed eight civilians. Government-controlled news media warned of a showdown with the United States and told Iraqis to prepare for a long confrontation. Iraq has vowed

to retaliate for the missile attack, and the US has warned it will respond in kind. For the government of President Saddam Hussein, the US strike ended hope of improved ties with the Clinton administration. But the ensuing crisis could prop up Saddam's popularity, which has sagged due to economic problems caused by UN trade sanctions imposed after his invasion of Kuwait nearly three years ago. Floods halt US barges

National Guardsmen and volunteers piled sandbags along the Mississippi River on June 29 to hold back floodwaters that have killed at least one person and stopped commercial traffic on a 500-mile stretch. States of emergency were declared in parts of Wisconsin and disaster areas were declared in Iowa, enabling counties to seek state personnel and equipment.

The high water from recent torrential rains has halted commercial traffic on the river from St. Paul, Minn., to St. Louis. A complete estimate will not be known until floodwaters recede, but officials said crop damage alone will be in the millions. US economy drops off

The government's chief economic forecasting gauge fell 0.3 percent in May, continuing a seesaw pattern that signals continued but uneven growth ahead.

The drop was a bit worse than the 0.1 percent or 0.2 percent anticipated by analysts. The Index of Leading Indicators is designed to predict economic activity six to nine months in advance. In addition, sales of new homes plunged 21 percent in May to the lowest level in a year and virtually erased April's jump to a six-year high, the government said today. Sales fell in every region except the West. Mafia roundup in Italy

Authorities said June 29 they smashed the leading mob clan in the Taranto area in southern Italy, and reported the arrest of a key member of the powerful Corleone faction of the Sicilian Mafia. The arrests are the latest in a government crackdown on organized crime that followed the murder last year of two prominent anti-Mafia judges. Japan's unemployment rises

Japan's unemployment rate reached 2.5 percent in May, the highest level since September 1988, when the labor market was suffering the fallout from the 1986-87 recession, an official of the Management and Coordination Agency said.

Although Japan's unemployment is far lower than that of other leading industrialized countries, the jobs-to-applicants ratio showed that only 81 jobs were offered for every 100 applicants in May, down from 84 in April. The ratio has been falling since peaking at 146 in March 1991, a Labor Ministry official said. Nigeria lawyers rise up

Lawyers began boycotting Nigeria's courts June 29, and a powerful labor group threatened a nationwide strike to protest Gen. Ibrahim Babangida's decree annulling elections aimed at restoring civilian rule. Amid violence across the country, the northern Bauchi state governor banned all unauthorized gatherings and urged Nigerians to support the military leadership "in its bid to enthrone genuine democracy." Peres to visit Egypt

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres will visit Egypt in the next few days to discuss ways of pushing the Middle East peace process forward, an Egyptian foreign ministry source said June 29. He said the exact date of the visit had not yet been fixed. The 10th round of talks in Washington is now in its third week but seems to be making little progress.

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