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The US

Amid signs of growing opposition to plans for bombing Iraq, President Clinton was to speak at the Pentagon on the objectives and risks of military action in the standoff over UN weapons inspections. In addition, a Clinton foreign-policy team was scheduled to conduct a town-hall-type meeting on the subject in Columbus, Ohio, today. A CNN/USA Today/ Gallup poll found 54 percent of Americans saying they favored more diplomacy to resolve the standoff with Iraq - up from 46 percent on Feb. 1.

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The White House said it had no credible evidence to back up a congressional report that Iraq farmed out deadly weapon components and Scud missiles to sympathetic Arab states, including Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Algeria. Earlier, the director of a House Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare said Iraq had shipped out parts of its nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programs - plus up to 400 Scud missiles - after invading Kuwait in 1990.

An Iraqi dissident leader said he had come to Washington for talks with US officials during which he will press a plan to oust President Saddam Hussein. In a telephone interview with Reuters, Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress - which the US has backed in the past - declined to identify administration officials he expected to meet.

Former White House Secret Service officer Lewis Fox arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington to appear before the grand jury investigating the relationship between the president and Monica Lewinsky. Fox, a retired officer subpoenaed to tell what he knows about an alleged meeting between Clinton and the former White House intern in late 1995, said he would not make a public statement.

Judges and juries should consult independent experts more often, US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer said. Breyer praised a plan of the American Bar Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to create a mechanism for experts on science to take part in trials, working neither for the defense nor the prosecution - but he warned of the dangers of excessive use of such experts.

A second straight day of storms slammed into the Gulf of Mexico coast, producing tornadoes, high winds, and heavy rain from Texas to Florida. One fatality was reported. Meanwhile, rain clouds rolled back over sodden California, launching what may turn out to be yet another week of stormy weather.

Production by mines, factories, and utilities was flat in January, the Federal Reserve reported. It was the first month since October 1996 that output failed to increase, the Fed said. Utility companies, normally busy in January because of heavy heating demands, reportedly slashed their output by 4 percent for the month.

The Clinton administration has decided to distribute $1 billion in bonuses to states most successful in moving welfare recipients into jobs and keeping them there, The Washington Post reported. Guidelines are to be sent this week to states, spelling out what they must do to get "performance bonuses" created by 1996 welfare legislation, the Post said. It quoted an administration official as saying Clinton would discuss the bonuses in remarks to the National Governors Association next week.

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The Nashville Banner will close down Friday because of declining circulation, officials said. Current circulation of the Banner, the city's afternoon paper since 1876, is nearly 40,000 - but is reportedly projected to decline to fewer than 25,000 by decade's end. The Tennessean, the city's morning daily, will continue to publish.

Leading public-health groups united in telling Congress not to give tobacco firms immunity from lawsuits. Congress should focus "on public health," not on concessions sought by the industry, the groups said in a joint letter on how to deal with various proposals for federal tobacco legislation.

The World

Iraq pledged "all serious and legitimate efforts" for the success of a visit to Baghdad by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan to try to find a diplomatic solution to the weapons-inspection standoff. But it said Annan should come as a negotiator, not as a "messenger." Annan was meeting with permanent Security Council representatives in New York before deciding whether to fly to Baghdad.

Israel sent word to Baghdad that it would not mount a preemptive strike against Iraqi targets, a Jerusalem newspaper reported. In return, Haaretz said, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein relayed assurances that his forces would not strike Israel even if attacked by the US-led alliance. But the militant Islamic group Hamas vowed new assaults against Israel if Iraq came under fire. And hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated in Bethlehem, urging Iraq to target the Israeli city of Tel Aviv with chemical-tipped missiles.

More economic growth, more investment, and a new tax code were the key elements of Rus- sian President Yeltsin's annual state-of-the-nation address to parliament. He also threatened to dismiss Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin's entire Cabinet if it did not win passage of an amendment-laden 1998 budget. The speech drew weak applause and was dismissed as "lackluster" by Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, whose party dominates the lower house of parliament.

Taiwan grounded the remaining fleet of China Airlines Airbus A300 jets, pending new safety inspections, after a crash near Taipei this week killed 203 people. It was the region's sixth major passenger-plane accident in six months and the fifth to occur while approaching an airport or attempting to land in rain, fog, or smoke from forest fires.

Law enforcement in Belgium is so lax that criminals operate unhindered, a long-awaited parliamentary report said. It detailed police blunders in the investigation of a rash of 1996 kidnappings and murders of young girls by a child-sex ring, concluding that the key suspects enjoyed "indirect protection" as rival police agencies failed to link a paroled pedophile to the crimes despite ample clues.

Homosexual-rights activists said they were "gutted" by the loss of a test case in the European Union's Court of Justice. It ruled against a lesbian railroad clerk whose employer, South West Trains of Britain, denied free travel benefits to her partner. The railroad extends such benefits to heterosexual couples in what are considered "stable" relationships. The EU court said, under the European Convention on Human Rights, homosexual relationships do not fall within the scope of "the right to respect for family life."

For the first time since 1979, the US flag hung in public in Iran as a team of wrestlers arrived for an international tournament. Observers cautioned against exaggerated expectations for the political symbolism of the visit. Relations between the two countries were cut after militant students seized the US embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans hostage for more than a year. Anti-US rallies are staged regularly in the capital, but the Americans said they were not concerned for their safety.

Other governments "understand nothing of what is going on in the Congo," self-proclaimed President Laurent-Desir Kabila said in rejecting international pressure to hold free and fair elections. He said the country remains awash in illegal guns since his forces seized power last May. At the time, he pledged democratic elections in two years, but he soon banned opposition political activity.


We are stuck in the middle of a bridge. The inflationary past is behind us, but we've failed to reach the investment future."

- Russian President Boris Yeltsin, sounding an economic-growth theme in his state-of-the-nation address.

Judy and Ken Reed planned to use their 1997 income-tax refund for a weekend getaway from their small furniture business in Vacaville, Calif. Imagine their reaction, then, when the envelope they were expecting a $175 check to be in held a bill - for $300 million. That's what the Internal Revenue Service said they owed on the unpaid balance from their 1992 tax. An agency spokesman said only that mistakes are bound to happen in a system that processes 200 million returns a year.

To paraphrase a famous country song: Garrett Burris fought the law - and the law won. Trying to help a friend beat a speeding ticket in Fairfax, Va., he took up half an hour of the court's time questioning the cop who'd issued the citation. Mr. Burris, a college student, armed himself with law books and texts on radar detection. But in the end he had to admit he's not an attorney. So, while the friend still had to pay $50, his would-be defender was charged with practicing law without a license, which is punishable by a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

The Day's List

'Titanic' Not About to Be Overtaken at Box Office

"Titanic" remained in first place at the box office for a ninth straight weekend and replaced "Jurassic Park" as No. 3 all-time domestic moneymaker. "Titanic" grossed enough Feb. 13-15 to bring its North American earnings to $370.9 million. It still trails "Star Wars," which earned $461 million, and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial," at $399.8 million. The Friday to Sunday grosses at theaters (in millions of dollars):

1. "Titanic" $33.0

2. "The Wedding Singer" 22.2

3. "Sphere" 16.6

4. "Good Will Hunting" 9.3

5. "As Good As It Gets" 7.4

6. "The Borrowers" 6.1

7. "Replacement Killers" 5.0

8. "Blues Brothers 2000" 3.5

(tie) "Great Expectations" 3.5

10. "L.A. Confidential" 3.3

- Exhibitor Relations Inc./AP

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