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The US

After hearing mixed messages from GOP presidential contenders Dole and Alexander, the nation's mayors hoped President Clinton would clarify how urban aid will fare in the deficit-reduction climate in Washington. Clinton was scheduled to address the meeting in Miami by satellite hookup during its closing session yesterday. Clinton's current budget-cutting proposal does not satisfy mayors because it does not specifically address the $4 billion Community Development Block Grant program. Congress may cut the program, which cities use for a variety of purposes, by as much as 50 percent.

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The White House dismissed as politically motivated Republican charges that Clinton's balanced-budget proposals rely on rosy economic forecasts. Spokesman Mike McCurry vowed that the White House would stick with its own figures in forecasting how to reach a balanced budget and not knuckle under to the Republicans' demands that Clinton adopt their forecasting data.

The veteran's group that organizes Boston's St. Patrick's Day parade said the Supreme Court's decision to allow them to bar gays and lesbians was a victory for free speech and family values. The gay organization that challenged parade organizers said its members are being excluded from their rightful place. In other decisions, the Supreme Court ruled that US businesses embroiled in contract fights over shipment of cargo over the high seas can be forced to arbitrate the disputes in other nations. It also turned away an antitrust attack on Visa's policy of not allowing competitors to issue credit cards bearing its name.

Senator Dole said he planned to bring Dr. Henry Foster's nomination for surgeon general to the Senate for a vote. Dole, who opposes the nomination, earlier left open the possibility that he would not allow the Senate to vote on the nomination. Dole said he told Foster he would try to work out a procedure in the Senate under which there would be two attempts to get the 60 votes required to cut off a filibuster. If supporters of the nomination meet this challenge, Foster would be virtually certain to get the majority necessary for confirmation. (Story, Page 3.)

Construction starts on new homes and apartments fell to the lowest rate in more than two years in May, despite more favorable long-term interest rates, the Commerce Department reported. The annual rate of starts on new homes declined 1.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.24 million units. Starts on single-family homes are a key measure, indicating consumers' willingness to take on long-term financial commitments.

The administration endorsed a GOP plan to liberalize tax rules for people with offices in their homes. The measure would nullify a Supreme Court decision that made it harder for the self-employed to claim the deduction.

The Clinton administration said it is not planning to resume nuclear-test explosions, but it is considering a variety of smaller-scale "experiments" to help confirm the safety of existing nuclear warheads. Defense Secretary Perry said earlier the administration had not yet set its position on the question of what small-scale nuclear testing should be allowed - if any -under terms of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty now being negotiated. Perry stressed that the US is not planning to follow France's lead and resume regular testing.

A panel of officers found Air Force Captain Jim Wang innocent on all counts in a friendly fire incident last year over Iraq. Wang had been accused of failing to warn fighters that friendly aircraft were in the no-fly zone over northern Iraq. (Story, Page 18.)

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Negotiations between prosecutors and Michael Fortier, a friend of Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, are back on track, a federal law enforcement official said. Plea negotiations earlier broke down because Fortier was not offering enough information.

The World

After buses carrying Chechen rebels and up to 150 people acting as human shields were stalled at the Chechen border yesterday, rebel leader Basayev dropped demands for further safe-passage guarantees and said the convoy would press on to Chechnya, Radio Russia said. The hostages had endured a six-day siege at a hospital in Budyonnovsk, a town in southern Russia. The influential Communist faction in the Russian parliament, meanwhile, decided to begin a campaign aimed at impeaching President Yeltsin, who has faced a torrent of criticism over his handling of the conflict in Chechnya. (Story, Page 1.)

Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin held secretive talks with Serbian and Bosnian Serb leaders before leaving the rebel Serb stronghold of Pale yesterday. Churkin's initiative came as Bosnia's Muslim-led government and its Croat allies increased battlefield pressure on the rebel Serbs. The talks also followed a surprise statement by Russian President Yeltsin that he agreed with France that there should be no more NATO airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs. The US, meanwhile, denied a UN spokesman's claim that it is advising the Muslim-led Bosnian Army. (Story, Page 6.)

Iraq is concealing information on its biological-weapons program and won't fully cooperate with UN inspectors unless there are prospects that an economic embargo will be lifted, a UN report said. Inspectors said Iraq had largely met UN demands to dismantle its chemical and ballistic missile programs and submit to UN monitoring, but it refused to engage in efforts to resolve the "biological weapons issue." Iraq has not accounted for 17 tons of material that could be used to grow germs used in biological warfare, the report said.

French President Chirac rejected a face-to-face request from Japanese Prime Minister Murayama to call off planned nuclear testing in the South Pacific. Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines stepped up diplomatic protests against France.

Japanese carmakers, in an apparent bid to break a US-Japan auto-trade stalemate, reportedly will announce plans to increase production in North America. Japan reacted sharply, meanwhile, to US plans to impose sanctions on two Japanese airlines after Tokyo refused to allow Federal Express to expand its operations in Japan.

Britain reaffirmed its determination to disarm the outlawed IRA, and the IRA-allied Sinn Fein party responded with increased stridency. Discord between the two sides has mired Northern Ireland peace talks and has strained the IRA's truce.

Cuban President Castro told CNN he has decided against allowing the extradition of fugitive financier Robert Vesco to the US to face fraud charges. Cuba will put Vesco on trial if evidence shows he violated Cuban law, Castro said.

Australia's Labor government appointed Finance Minister Kim Beazley as deputy prime minister. Beazley is replacing the low-profile Brian Howe. Elections are expected either late this year or early in 1996. Prime Minister Keating, behind in the polls, immediately endorsed Beazley as his eventual replacement.

Floods sweeping northeastern Bangladesh have killed 50 people since Thursday and have left up to 2 million others marooned, officials reported. Rain continued to batter the area yesterday.

Palestinians wearing chains and handcuffs marched in Gaza in support of colleagues hunger-striking in Israeli jails. A day of fasting is planned for today for the 5,000 inmates still held by Israel. Israel's top leaders toured the West Bank as the July 1 deadline for a troop-pullout neared.

A leader of Colombia's Cali drug cartel suspected of involvement in a bombing that killed 29 people surrendered to authorities. Henry Loaiza is considered a hard-liner who had wanted to respond to police pressure on the cartel with revenge attacks.


Some devout Muslims say Western cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry and Popeye are too violent, so they've come up with an alternative: Islamic cartoons. The first is "Salam's Journey," a 40-minute animated movie based on a story from the Koran, Islam's holy book. So far, 20,000 copies have been sold.

A volcanic eruption has formed a new island near the Pacific Ocean nation of Tonga. It began two weeks ago, and when the dust settled, Tongans found an island several acres in size, rising 40 or 50 feet in places. But the island may not stick around. One formed in 1969 sank or was washed away.

The 1996 summer Olympics have already attracted $198 million in ticket orders, and 171 of 540 scheduled events are oversubscribed. An Olympics official estimates 500,000 ticket orders will be received by the end of the year.

One of Switzerland's national symbols - chocolate - is about to be Eurocratized, and many Swiss don't have much appetite for it. New food regulations taking effect July 1 will allow Swiss chocolate makers to add vegetable oils to the traditional cocoa butter, putting them in line with other European nations.

Disney unveiled plans for a fourth theme park near Orlando, Fla., that will feature wild animals.

Top-Grossing Films In the US, June 16-18

(Preliminary figures)

1. "Batman Forever," $52.8 million

2. "Congo," $10.2 million

3. "Casper," $7 million

4. "The Bridges of Madison County," $6.7 million

5. "Braveheart," $4.1 million

6. "Die Hard With a Vengeance," $3.8 million

7. "Crimson Tide," $3.4 million

8. "Pocahontas," $2.7 million

9. "Forget Paris," $1.7 million

10. "While You Were Sleeping," $1.6 million

- Associated Press

" The United States is observing a moratorium on nuclear testing, and we will continue to observe that moratorium."

- US Ambassador to New Zealand Josiah Beeman

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