U.S. SOLDIERS SPARK CONTROVERSY US soldiers in Colombia who have unwittingly sparked a major political crisis and inflamed nationalist sentiment insist they are doing nothing more sinister than building a school and clinic. The soldiers showed visiting reporters Wednesday how they were laying the foundations to the buildings in the poor village of Juanchaco, on the Pacific coast. But in the capital Bogota, embattled Colombian President Cesar Gaviria was fiercely defending himself against a court ruling accusing him of violating national sovereignty in inviting the US soldiers here. Mr. Gaviria said the ruling lacked any legal basis and jeopardized future cooperation agreements with other countries. The December arrival of the soldiers sparked controversy over what, if anything, was the real purpose of their visit. The local press suspected they were on a covert operation against drug traffickers, while politicians accused Gaviria of inviting them without first consulting Congress. Credit bill halted
The chairman of the House Banking Committee delayed action indefinitely Wednesday on a bill to make it easier for consumers to correct errors in credit reports, after Republicans and some Democrats succeeded in weakening the measure. House aides and lobbyists say Rep. Henry Gonzalez (D) of Texas wanted the bill to favor consumers more and the companies that gather credit records less. House Democrats failed to defeat industry-backed efforts that critics fear would allow big banks and others in effect to set up credit reporting units inside their companies and avoid provisions contained in the legislation. Among other things, the bill would force credit reporting agencies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit history each year upon request and correct certain errors within 30 days. Ecuador gas conflict
In Santa Isabel, Ecuador, four people were wounded Wednesday when soldiers opened fire on Indians trying to blow up a bridge to protest a recent gasoline price increase, a television station reported. Their condition was not immediately known. An Indian group, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, had called a 48-hour protest to force the government to roll back a recent 71 percent increase in the price of gasoline. Indians make up about a third of Ecuador's 10 million people. Auto industry gains
General Motors Corporation, the world's largest carmaker, yesterday reported a solid gain in fourth quarter and full year earnings for 1993, as its North American auto operation turned a profit for the first time in more than four years. In a related sign of strength in the previously troubled US auto industry, Ford Motor Company reported Wednesday that it rebounded in the fourth quarter to a profit of $719 million from a year-ago loss. India admits aid agency
For the first time since the conflict in the state of Kashmir erupted four years ago, India has granted an international relief agency permission to visit the area. After a year of negotiations, the government told the International Red Cross on Wednesday that it could survey the state to determine what kind of help its people needed. The move is the latest effort by India to improve its human rights record, which often is criticized for abuses by police and security forces in Kashmir. Harding sues USOC
Tonya Harding sued the US Olympic Committee for $20 million Wednesday and sought to block a hearing that could prevent her from skating at the Winter Games. Earlier, in a television interview, Ms. Harding vowed she would go to the Olympics, win a gold medal, and ``hang it on my wall forever.'' The lawsuit, filed in Clackamas County Circuit Court in Oregon, contends that Harding has complied with all rules and regulations of the US Figure Skating Association and should be allowed to compete. Harding's attorney, Robert Weaver, said the suit seeks a court order to stop the USOC from holding a disciplinary hearing in Oslo on Feb. 15.