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NEW WORLD TRADE BODY APPROVED Senior officials from most of the world's major trading nations yesterday formally approved in Geneva the launch of the new World Trade Organization on Jan. 1. The WTO will have greater powers to settle trade disputes than the existing General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which will be phased out. Meanwhile, in Washington, President Clinton yesterday signed a bill approving US participation in the WTO. Scandal in Belgium

Belgium's defense minister resigned yesterday amid accusations he built a villa in southern France with public money. Leo Delcroix admitted Wednesday that he owned the villa in Provence, though he denied that earlier this year. But he insisted the villa, valued at as much as $600,000, was not financed by government funds.

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CIA sex bias suit

The US government is paying $410,000 to settle a lawsuit by a senior female Central Intelligence Agency officer who said she was discriminated against by superiors after reporting a colleague for wife-beating.

The Justice Department and the woman - Janine Brookner - have reached an agreement in principle to settle, but the agreement has not been put into writing, a department spokesman said Wednesday.

CNN and Noriega tape

The Cable News Network could be fined as much as $100,000 today for disregarding a judge's order and broadcasting secretly recorded prison conversations between former Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega and his lawyers. CNN was found guilty of criminal contempt on Nov. 1.

Suicide law blocked

A law that would have made Oregon the first government in the world to allow doctor-assisted suicide was blocked by a federal judge Wednesday, a day before it was to take effect. US District Judge Michael Hogan in Eugene issued a temporary restraining order, saying he wanted to hear arguments about whether the law is constitutional.

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A-bomb stamp reconsidered

The Postal Service is reconsidering issuing a stamp that depicts the atomic bomb attacks on Japan and has angered Tokyo (see photos), after President Clinton on Wednesday called for a ``more appropriate'' way to mark World War II. White House spokeswoman Dee Dee Myers said chief of staff Leon Panetta discussed the stamp Wednesday with Postal Service head Marvin Runyon.

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