News In Brief

The US

Russia agreed to return to Holocaust victims or their heirs art looted by the Nazis, but France rejected a plea to auction more than 2,000 works of art held by the government since World War II. At a conference in Washington, Russian delegate Valery Kulishov surprised observers by pledging to try to identify and return so-called victim art. He said nothing about returning art taken from institutions.

More US documents that could help prosecute former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet will be declassified and released, senior administration officials said. Spanish investigators are combing declassified US archives for evidence of human-rights violations by Pinochet. Exactly how much more material will be declassified was not clear. The US has been cautiously neutral about Spain's interest in prosecuting Pinochet on charges of genocide, terrorism, and torture - and about a British court's denial of immunity for the former dictator.

A trial began in Washington to determine how much the late President Nixon's estate should be compensated for 42 million pages of documents, thousands of photographs, and 3,700 hours of secretly recorded tapes left behind when he climbed into a helicopter and quit the White House in 1974. The government was prepared to argue that the heirs are entitled to nothing - and that the collection is worth far less than Nixon lawyers contend. Estimates of its value, plus interest, range beyond $250 million.

Lawyers for President Clinton and GOP challenger Bob Dole disputed a preliminary audit that found their 1996 campaigns owe millions of dollars because they illegally benefited from ads run by their political parties. Federal Election Commission auditors recommended the Clinton campaign repay $7 million and the Dole campaign pay back $17.7 million in taxpayer funds.

Clinton eased most of the US sanctions imposed against Pakistan and India after they conducted underground nuclear-weapons tests last spring. The action came as Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was to meet with Clinton in the Oval Office. White House officials said Clinton might reschedule for next year a trip he canceled this fall to the two nations.

Kentucky's Mitch McConnell was reelected chair of the GOP senatorial fund-raising panel as both Republicans and Democrats chose Senate leaders for the new Congress. McConnell's victory by a three-to-one margin over challenger Chuck Hagel of Nebraska came in the only contested election.

The Ohio Supreme Court cleared the way for a wrongful-imprisonment lawsuit by the son of Dr. Sam Sheppard to determine whether the doctor was innocent of the 1954 murder of his wife. The court ruled 4-3 against a request by prosecutors to stop the case, which partly inspired "The Fugitive" TV series and a film of the same name, from going to trial again.

University of California teaching assistants walked out at all eight undergraduate campuses. The strike was the assistants' fourth in six years, but the first involving all general-admissions campuses. At issue: whether the assistants can unionize, a right they have been trying to win for 15 years.

The World

Russia will have to wait until after Jan. 1 for further financial help from the International Monetary Fund, director Michel Camdessus said. He left meetings in Moscow with senior officials, among them Prime Minister Primakov, saying he "saluted" their determination to pursue reforms. But he said he was not yet prepared to release more of the $22.6 billion in bailout funds agreed to last summer. A $4.3 billion installment has been frozen since September because of Russia's latest financial crisis.

Iraq failed to hand over key documents sought by the UN by the deadline the latter had set. Weapons-inspections chief Richard Butler had asked for an Air Force account of chemical munitions used in the 1983-88 war with Iran by Monday. Butler must certify that Iraq has fulfilled its promise to cooperate fully with his inspectors before the Security Council will review the question of lifting economic sanctions.

For the second time in eight days, Protestant and Catholic political leaders in Northern Ireland were to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair as they struggled to put together the joint administration called for in their April peace accord. The two sides remain apart on how many seats the administration, known as the Executive, should have and how they should be divided along sectarian lines. Protestants also insist that Sinn Fein, the political ally of the Irish Republican Army, should not participate until the IRA at least begins to hand in its weapons.

New violence erupted on the West Bank days before President Clinton's scheduled visit to the Middle East. Palestinian students near Ramallah ambushed an Israeli soldier's car, beat him, and kicked in the vehicle's windows before setting it on fire. The incident began as a protest against the Israeli detention of thousands of Palestinian prisoners not yet freed under the latest peace deal between the two sides. Clinton is due in the region next weekend.

For the fifth time since 1976, US-trained economist Salim Hoss will assume Lebanon's top government post. Hoss was appointed after Prime Minister Rafik Hariri quit in a power struggle with President Emile Lahoud. Hoss announced two goals: reduction of a budget deficit estimated at 17 percent of gross domestic product and ridding southern Lebanon of Israeli occupation troops.

With the backing of military commanders, ex-Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit was asked to head Turkey's government - the third time he will have held the post. Ecevit was appointed by President Suleyman Demirel after parliament voted out Mesut Yilmaz last week in an alleged corruption scandal. He pledged to form a secular administration, although the largest party in parliament is pro-Islamic. Turkey's next national election is scheduled for April 18.

Two steps that would radically alter China's legal system are to be tried next year, the nation's senior judge announced. Xiao Yang said "all court proceedings must be open to the public" and local courts should "work to use more juries." Although the Constitution guarantees the right to a public trial, only a few courts have opened their doors. And "numerous unresolved issues" have kept juries from being used except on rare occasions.

Business and Finance

Boeing Co. will cut an additional 20,000 jobs in the next two years as it scales back production of commercial jets due largely to slackening demand caused by the Asian economic crisis. The company said the new cuts will bring total reductions in its work force to 48,000 jobs, a 20 percent drop from the high level of 238,000 in June.

US housing sales are likely to fall 9 percent in 1999 from this year's record pace, even though mortgage rates will remain attractive, Fannie Mae said. The congressionally chartered company, which assists home ownership by repackaging mortgages for investors, said sales of new houses, apartments, and condominiums were likely to total 869,000 in 1998 - but only 790,000 next year.

Sales of single-family homes increased 0.8 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 851,000, the Commerce Department said. It was the 14th straight month that the annual pace topped 800,000 - the longest such period on record.


'The French way is to try and find the owners or their heirs. The art belongs to them...'

- French delegate Louis Amigues, explaining at conference on stolen assets why his government would not auction for the benefit of Holocaust survivors more than 2,000 looted art works in its possession.


With advances in the Northern Ireland peace process, it's now OK for Britain's armed forces to appear in uniform, when off duty, in public. They may even do so in pubs, under new rules published by the Defense Ministry. But if they do, the troops were told - in what can only be considered a sober warning - the only permissible beverage is lemonade. Previously, civilian clothes were required off duty because of the threat of attack by Irish guerrillas.


Vietnam doesn't usually come to mind as one of the world's more romantic spots. But that may be changing. An editorial in the official Tien Phong newspaper advises the over-50 crowd to lighten up in its attitudes toward public displays of affection. Too many people among the wartime generation, it seems, have been reacting negatively to kissing by young couples aboard motorbikes. "The older people," the Hanoi paper says, should "have more tolerance and less prejudice about the youth."

The Day's List

Ranking sports franchises in terms of their market value

The most valuable professional sports franchise among the 113 in North America is the Dallas Cowboys, according to the Dec. 14 issue of Forbes. The magazine's figures are based on 1997 revenue and expenses for baseball and football teams, and on 1997-98 figures for basketball teams. Where public data were not available, Forbes used estimates from consultants, bankers, stadium operators, and trade publications. The three most valuable teams in each sport and their estimated worth (in millions):


Dallas Cowboys $413

Washington Redskins 403

Carolina Panthers 365


New York Yankees $362

Baltimore Orioles 323

Cleveland Indians 322


Chicago Bulls $303

New York Knicks 296

Los Angeles Lakers 268

- Associated Press

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