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THE GULF Eight Arab countries opposed to Iraq announced Wednesday in Damascus the formation of an Arab peacekeeping force to maintain security in the Gulf. The force will comprise mainly Syrian and Egyptian troops. A declaration also called for economic and political cooperation among the eight states, which included the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Syria, and Egypt.... In a quiet shift of policy, France is soft-pedaling its call for an international conference on the Middle East pending a postwar round of US diplomacy in the region, sources in Paris said.... Loyalist Iraqi troops appear to be gaining control of southern Iraqi cities and towns torn by revolt against President Saddam Hussein, US military sources said Wednesday.... Although there was no independent confirmation of the report, an Iraqi Kurdish opposition radio said Tuesday that fighting had broken out in the northern city of Arbil and Kurdish rebels captured a nearby town.... Baghdad radio said Wednesday that Iraq has voided the annexat ion of Kuwait and agreed to return seized Kuwaiti assets.


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The House Appropriations committee has approved a US emergency aid package to Israel of $650 million to make up for losses incurred due to the Gulf war. Israel promised not to ask for additional aid or loan guarantees until September.... Officials trying to save dwindling stocks of salmon from the West Coast drought will release additional water into the Snake and Columbia Rivers over the next two months. With low flows of water, young salmon born in mountain streams cannot reach the Pacific Ocean.... The biggest storm of the winter in drought-ridden California has moved on to the east, leaving behind apparently too little moisture too late to provide a reprieve from water rationing.... Overall drug use in the US has declined by 11 percent in the past two years, while the number of people who use cocaine has dropped by almost half, former Sen. Paula Hawkins told an Inter-Amer ican drug conference Tuesday in San Juan del Rio, Mexico.


The parliament in Japan Wednesday formally approved a package of bills to finance Tokyo's $9 billion pledge to the US-led Gulf force.... Seoul plans to lift import bans on another 120 to 130 agricultural and fishery products from 1992 to 1994 as a further concession to the GATT, a South Korean official said Wednesday. President Roh Tae-woo, ignoring opposition charges that he was trying to distract public attention from a bribery scandal, announced Tuesday that South Korea would hold its first local government elections in 30 years on March 26.... Police in the Philippines said Wednesday they have arrested a ranking communist hit man allegedly involved in the killing of three moderate labor leaders in the capital last year.... Three Hong Kong men convicted of aiding key fugitives from China's 1989 pro-democracy movement have been sent enced in Canton, China, for up to five years in prison.

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