RENO APPOINTS INDEPENDENT COUNSEL Former US attorney Robert Fiske was named special counsel to probe President Clinton's ties to a failed Arkansas savings and loan when he was governor. The appointment of Mr. Fiske, a Republican, was made by Attorney General Janet Reno yesterday. Her selection of the Wall Street attorney answered suggestions that the special counsel be a veteran attorney and, to demonstrate independence, a Republican. But some conservatives are likely to oppose Fiske, who ran the US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan from 1976 to 1980. He was appointed by President Ford but continued in office during the Carter administration. Conservatives scuttled Fiske's chance to become deputy attorney general during the Bush administration because of his involvement in the American Bar Association's screening of potential judges. Washington shuts down

Single-digit temperatures brought the nation's capital to a near standstill yesterday with federal government offices closed and most businesses ordered shut by a state of emergency to conserve electricity. The high of 7 degrees on Wednesday was Washington's lowest recorded temperature this century. Nunn says no

Sen. Sam Nunn (D) of Georgia declined to accept the post of defense secretary, White House officials said yesterday. The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman discussed the job with administration officials last week. President Clinton's choice to replace former secretary Les Aspin retired Adm. Bobby Inman withdrew his nomination on Tuesday. Harding implicated

Figure skater Tonya Harding knew of the plot to attack competitor Nancy Kerrigan and at one point complained it was taking too long to carry out, her bodyguard told The Oregonian newspaper in an interview published yesterday. It came a day after the arrest of Ms. Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and the release of an affidavit from a sheriff's deputy implicating Harding in the Jan. 6 attack for the first time. Arab boycott eroding

US Commerce Secretary Ron Brown said yesterday the Arab boycott of Israel is eroding as Arab businessmen and politicians take increasingly ``pragmatic'' views of firms which trade with the Jewish state. Mr. Brown, in Cairo for talks with Arab leaders, said the boycott had become an anachronism as the Middle East moves toward an era of peace. Clinton poll ratings

President Clinton ends his first year in office with the approval of more than 50 percent of Americans, according to three polls published yesterday. A New York Times-CBS News poll and a USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll each showed 54 percent of the public approve of the way Mr. Clinton is doing his job. A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll showed a 60 percent approval rating. Hillary Rodham Clinton does not fare as well. In the Times-CBS poll, only 39 percent said they had a favorable opinion of her, down from 47 percent in November.

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