News In Brief

The US

The US will work to close "any possible loopholes" in the weapons-inspection deal between the UN and Iraq, Secretary of State Albright told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. She said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein would not be allowed "to take us from crisis to crisis" in the inspection program.

Albright and Defense Secretary Cohen also were to press the administration's case for accepting Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic into NATO, with the Pentagon issuing a new and lower estimate of the likely cost of such a move. The Senate is expected to vote on expansion next month. The US would pay "about 25 percent" of the estimated $1.5 billion cost over 10 years, the Pentagon said. The earlier estimate was $4.9 billion to $6.2 billion.

A White House aide and a private investigator working for President Clinton's defense team were summoned to the federal courthouse in Washington where a grand jury is probing the rumored sexual relationship between the president and former intern Monica Lewinsky. Communications adviser Sidney Blumenthal and detective-agency chief Terry Lenz were expected to be asked about efforts to spread damaging information about Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr and his staff.

Clinton added a stop in central Florida today to his planned West Coast trip. He is scheduled to survey damage caused by powerful tornadoes earlier this week. At least 38 deaths from the storm are reported, with estimates of property damage still being prepared. Five more Florida counties were made eligible for federal disaster-relief funds, joining 11 others struck by destructive storms last Christmas.

Unionized auto workers at General Motors' Saturn assembly plant in Tennessee scheduled a vote March 10-11 on whether to keep the Japanese-style labor contract that allows them significant input in operating decisions. The unique pact has been cited in TV ads as having a positive effect on the quality of Saturn cars. It was upheld by workers in a similar referendum six years ago, but has helped contribute to declining bonuses for workers at the plant since 1996.

Although felony charges against Nevada anthrax-scare defendant Larry Wayne Harris were dropped by federal prosecutors, he was scheduled to return to court for allegedly violating terms of a 1995 probation order. Prosecutors withdrew the charge of possessing a biological agent for use as a weapon against Harris and codefendant William Leavitt Jr. after tests showed the anthrax found in their car in a Las Vegas suburb was a harmless vaccine.

High-school seniors in the US are among the world's worst at science and mathematics, a new study reported. Of 21 countries whose students participated in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS), the US outperformed only Lithuania, Cyprus, and South Africa, it said. TIMMS found at least 25 percent of US students admitting they spend less than an hour a day on homework versus as many as three hours in most other countries in the study.

January was the first month in four years in which consumer prices did not increase, the Labor Department reported. It said a 0.3 percent rise in the cost of food was offset by a 2.4 percent drop in energy prices - the most significant decrease since March 1991.

The trashing of three apartments by players of the US men's hockey team at Nagano, Japan, was "inexcusable" and those responsible should be barred from future Olympic Games, coach Ron Wilson told The Washington Post. He said he believes no more than two members of the team caused the estimated $3,000 in damage but that until they accept blame, "everybody is guilty by association." The apartments were damaged after a loss that eliminated the highly rated US team from medal contention.

The World

The UN Security Council was expected to approve a weapons-inspection accord reached by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Iraqi officials. Annan was greeted in New York by 300 cheering UN staff members before presenting the plan to the council. Among other provisions, the deal allows a "special group" of weapons experts and senior diplomats to to inspect eight presidential sites.

An opposition politician was to assume the presidency for the first time in modern Korean history. Kim Dae Jung is to take the oath of office today in the South Korean capital, Seoul. He has promised to restructure the country's troubled economy and reform its political institutions. Economic woes forced his predecessor, Kim Young Sam, to accept a $57 billion bailout from the International Monetary fund in December.

Unidentified gunmen assassinated a candidate in India's general election and four of his supporters in the eastern state of Bihar. Devendranath Dunbey and the other victims were found in a Jeep 115 miles north of the state capital, Patna. Dunbey was seeking a seat in the lower house of parliament for the socialist Samajwadi Party. The shooting brought the number of election-related deaths to 131 since Feb. 14.

Government troops killed 42 Muslim rebels in western Algeria, newspapers reported. Military aircraft had bombed rebel- held areas 275 miles west of the capital, Algiers, to clear the way for advancing soldiers. The armed forces have been carrying out similar operations across Algeria following the massacres of more than 1,200 civilians in December and January.

Turkey froze the bank accounts of the banned Islamist Welfare Party. Earlier, government officials sealed off Welfare headquarters in the final stages of dissolving the party outlawed last month for threatening the country's secular system. Meanwhile, another Muslim-based group, the Virtue Party, was expected to accept most of the former members of Welfare, which had 152 of the 550 seats in parliament.

Talks began to help secure the release of three UN military observers held hostage in Georgia. The former Soviet republic's ambassador to Russia met with a Georgian opposition representative in Moscow. Armed opposition supporters seized four observers last week, demanding talks with the government, a withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, and the freedom of gunmen arrested on suspicion of trying to assassinate President Eduard Shevardnadze. One captive was freed Sunday.

Calm returned to the northern Albanian town of Shkodr after two days of violence. Civilians and police erected roadblocks to prevent new attacks by armed gangs who fled as government troops regained control of the town. About 50 gunmen went on a rampage in Shkodr Sunday, torching public buildings and looting banks. Albania's top police official said about 600 of his men had fled the violence and promised they would be punished.

The Philippines election commission suspended a hearing on whether to disqualify dozens of "nuisance" presidential candidates after a lawyer for former first lady Imelda Marcos refused to stop speaking. Some candidates jeered at commission members as they stormed out of the hearing room in Manila. More than 80 candidates, including Mrs. Marcos, are registered for the May 11 vote. Most have insufficient resources, little backing, or no political party.


"There were millions of people around the world rooting for peace .... That is why I say you should never underestimate the power of prayer."

- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, reflecting on the deal he negotiated that may avert a US-led attack against Iraq.

Togetherness goes only so far, as five American women ice hockey players at the Winter Olympic Games have found. They helped to win the gold for the US, but their pictures won't appear with the rest of the team on new boxes of Wheaties cereal. They're still students, and rules forbid college athletes' names or likenesses from being used for financial gain.

Speaking of likenesses, remember Lyuben Kovachev, the Bulgarian businessman cited in this space last week who bears a strong resemblance to Saddam Hussein? Iraq's leaders turned down his offer to serve in their new self-defense force. But perhaps they have another use in mind for him.

The Day's List

Another Milepost at the Box Office for 'Titanic'

For the 10th weekend in a row, "Titanic" led all other films at box offices across the US and Canada Feb. 20-22, becoming the No. 2 moneymaker in industry history. Its gross revenues to date - $402.5 million - pushed ahead of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" and now trail only the $461 million earned by "Star Wars." Last weekend's top 10 films and their estimated grosses (in millions of dollars):

1. "Titanic" $21.0

2. "The Wedding Singer" 12.2

3. "Sphere" 7.7

4. "Good Will Hunting" 6.5

5. "Senseless" 5.3

6. "As Good As It Gets" 4.6

7. "The Borrowers" 4.0

8. "Palmetto" 2.9

9. "The Apostle" 2.4

10. "L.A. Confidential" 2.3

Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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