News In Brief
President Clinton, as part of his formally unveiled 2001 federal budget proposal, called for a 3.7 percent military pay raise and a big jump in spending on weapons and equipment. Reports put the proposed defense budget between $277.5 billion and $305.4 billion - the same amount as the previous year using the lower figure, and an increase of $14.4 billion using the higher figure and a different set of calculations. Assuming presidential approval of a national missile-defense system, the budget proposes $1.9 billion for that project. It also includes $2.2 billion for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo and $2 billion to cover expenses there in the current year.
Clinton's budget proposal also includes a $100 million joint research and aid package for Russia, which - in return - has promised to stop making plutonium out of fuel from its 29 civilian nuclear reactors, The New York Times reported. The deal is the US Energy Department's first major attempt to secure Russia's stockpile of the element, from which 3,000 nuclear weapons could be made, the Times said, quoting Clinton administration and Russian officials. Part of the agreement also is contingent on Russia ending new sales and transfers of nuclear technology to Iran. But a just-released report by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded that even more money and higher-level priority are needed to keep Russia's nuclear materials from being stolen.
Trying to shift momentum their way, Republican Steve Forbes campaigned for Delaware's primary - which he won in 1996 - and Democrat Bill Bradley sharpened his criticism of Vice President Al Gore and reached out especially to black voters. Texas Gov. George W. Bush also stumped in Delaware, but both he and Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona have their sights on South Carolina, where they're battling for the support of hundreds of thousands of veterans.
Armed Navy special forces were aboard a Russian tanker off the coast of Oman following Defense Secretary Cohen's announcement that tests showed the ship was carrying smuggled Iraqi oil. The tanker was seized by a US ship - part of a multinational interception force - in the Gulf of Oman last week on suspicion it was in violation of the UN economic embargo against Iraq. What will happen to the merchant vessel and its crew is up to the Omani government, Cohen said. The State Department estimated that oil exports from Iraq average 100,000 barrels a day, compared with 50,000 barrels in 1998, when prices were much lower.
In attempt to drive down the high price of oil, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson has contacted oil ministers of several producer countries and scheduled visits to Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Mexico, the White House said. Richardson has resisted pressure to dip outright into the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve, but the Energy Department reportedly has considered a plan under which oil companies would take fuel from the reserve and then replace it later at a cheaper cost per barrel. Current US stockpiles of crude are at their lowest level since the 1970s.
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