News In Brief

The world

Japanese police raided 24 buildings belonging to the Aum Shinri Kyo religious sect, making several arrests and confiscating bottles of chemicals. A news service said the chemicals were similar to those used in the nerve-gas attack on Tokyo's subway Monday. The secretive sect is suspected of kidnappings. At one of the raided compounds, dozens of sect members were found dazed, perhaps from malnutrition. (Story, Page 1.)

Concerned that full-scale war could break out again in Bosnia, France and the US agreed to reactivate the five-nation contact group, which will push for a three-way summit of Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia. France has proposed that Serbia be offered gradual relief from UN-imposed sanctions for each step it takes toward acceptance of a settlement. Meanwhile, fighting continued near Tuzla, and Serbs in Croatia rejected a UN plan to control border crossings into Bosnia. (Serbian culture, Page 6.)

Britain upgraded its Northern Ireland peace talks on the Protestant side when Michael Ancram joined talks with paramilitary groups on laying down arms. Posted in Belfast, Ancram is the first British minister to join the talks. Sinn Fein,which has been insisting the talks be upgraded on its side before it will consider laying down arms, welcomed the development.

The Arab League met in Cairo to mark its 50th anniversary. Other capitals will host lectures and sporting events. The league was founded in 1945. In opening remarks, Egyptian President Mubarak urged an end to the arms race in the Middle East. Members are divided over renewal of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation pact, which Israel has refused to join.

Iran has placed 8,000 troops and chemical weapons near the Strait of Hormuz , a ''substantial'' military buildup that threatens the world's oil supply, US Defense Secretary Perry said in Bahrain. US Naval officials in the area who briefed Perry said that Iran also has placed surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles in the region. (Story, Page 1.)

A British ship loaded with tons of nuclear waste from France sailed into the anti-nuclear South Pacific on its way to Japan. Earlier, Chile unsuccessfully attempted to ban the Pacific Pintail from its 200-mile economic zone. Kiribati, Fiji, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Nauru have lodged protests with Japan.

Philippines President Ramos recalled his ambassador to Singapore and banned women from going there as maids. He said he will break relations with Singapore if an investigation shows a Filipina maid who was hanged for murder there was executed unjustly.

Saddam Hussein's eldest son, reportedly shot in an assassination attempt last week, was flown to a hospital in Amman, Jordan, and underwent surgery Monday, sources in Jordan said. Odai Hussein is now in the hopital's intensive care unit. Kurdish rebels claimed last week that Odai had been shot in an ambush in Baghdad

The Turkish military, on the third day of a massive raid against Kurds in northern Iraq, flew air raids and ferried supplies across the border. Observers said a long campaign looked likely. Military analysts said the effort may yield little against the well-trained, highly mobile Kurdish guerrillas.

Russia said its forces have sealed off the town of Argun, a key Chechen stronghold 15 miles from Grozny. A relief organization said the Russians are blocking medical workers trying to help civilians who have fled the fighting. Concern about epidemics in the region is growing.

The US

The House was set to vote on 31 amendments to a welfare-reform bill. The Republican plan would dismantle 45 social programs and replace them with lump-sum payments to states. Under the bill, adult welfare recipients would have to work within two years; immigrants would be barred from cash welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid; free school lunches would no longer be guaranteed to poor children; and food-stamp benefits would not automatically keep pace with inflation. The Congressional Budget Office said the bill could save taxpayers $66 billion over five years.

The Supreme Court ruled that states can reduce their welfare costs by counting all children in a household as a single group, even if they are not siblings. The court unanimously reinstated such a policy in California. A California household would receive more benefits if nonsibling children were counted separately.

The Republican promise to cut taxes lost some steam in both houses of Congress as members sought to cut back or eliminate tax cuts that might interfere with a balanced budget. A Washington Post poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed believe Republican spending cuts will go too far in helping the rich and in cutting needed government services. Senator Gramm, a GOP presidential contender, criticized Republican colleagues who want to tone down tax cuts. (Story, Page 3.)

The US trade deficit surged 68.4 percent in January, as merchandise imports soared to the highest level in history, reflecting heavy demand for foreign cars, toys, and TVs. The Commerce Department said the total deficit in goods and services rose to $12.12 billion, up from $7.26 billion in December.

Anti-abortion groups met in Washington to work on a strategy aimed at preventing Republican presidential candidates from abandoning their anti-abortion agenda. The groups said they would criticize candidates publicly and try to influence them privately. (Story, Page 1.) Meanwhile, the House approved by voice vote a bill requiring states to provide written information about family-planning services to youths who receive public assistance. The bill does not specify what type of family planning counseling should be offered.

Liberal and Christian conservative groups pledged to improve communication, respect one another's positions, and work to avoid lawsuits on issues such as prayer in public schools, creationism, and whether tax money should go to private schools. Organizers said the mostly symbolic agreement would have the greatest influence on religious disputes that have torn many local school districts.

President Clinton was set to sign into law an unfunded-mandates measure, requiring Washington to pay for many regulations it forces states to follow. The legislation requires cost-benefit analyses of any regulations that cost states and localities more than $50 million a year, or businesses more than $100 million. It was the second Republican Contract With America item that Clinton will have signed.

The Senate Ethics Committee was expected to meet to review evidence gathered on Senator Packwood's sexual conduct and other allegations of misbehavior. No decision is expected for several weeks.

Postal inspectors converged on a tiny Montclair, N. J., post office substation after four people were killed in an apparent robbery attempt. Inspectors hope the one survivor will give them some clues as to what happened. A federal grand jury in New York is investigating mail thefts; postal officials say they are on the rise.

In a setback for organized labor, a federal appeals court ruled that unions can't file antitrust suits against employers and reversed a $30.3 million judgment against the NFL. The decision will also have an impact on baseball and the NBA, which has operated without a collective bargaining agreement since last summer.


Highway One, Vietnam's economic lifeline, is about to be rebuilt. Constructed by France and bombed by the US, the road today is crumbling. Now with $279 million in loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, Hanoi is ready to rebuild. Construction firms from the US and 13 other nations are bidding for the repaving job, set to begin in November.

Russian cosmonaut Valery Polyakov returned to earth yesterday after a record 436 days on orbit in the space station Mir. With crew members Yelena Kondakova and Alexander Viktorenko, he touched down on the snow-swept steppes of Kazakhstan.

The autumn-winter ready-to-wear season saw Paris designers focus on the balance sheet, producing wearable clothes rather than the innovative fashions that have set them apart. The major fashion houses targeted US stores. (Story, Page 12.)

``There is a way in which you can address these things that matches the spirit of reconciliation that now exists between the United States and Japan.''

White House spokesman Mike McCurry, commenting on observances marking the end of World War II

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