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News In Brief

The US

Pulling back from a military confrontation with Iraq, President Clinton said the US would support the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq. He said the decision was made after assurances from Iraq that its offer to allow inspections to resume was unconditional. Senior US officials had said earlier that a weekend bombing raid on Iraq had been called off after Baghdad sent the first of several letters offering to end its refusal to cooperate with arms inspectors. Clinton said the US would remain ready to act militarily until it sees complete cooperation from Iraq. The president reportedly canceled plans to attend an economic summit in Malaysia in order to handle the troubling standoff with Baghdad.

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The tobacco industry and eight state attorneys general proposed a $206 billion national settlement of smoking-related health claims in what could become the largest US settlement of a civil lawsuit. Other states must decide by Friday whether to sign on to the deal, which must also be presented to the boards of major tobacco firms.

Independent counsel Kenneth Starr obtained an indictment accusing Webster Hubbell of concealing his and Hillary Rodham Clinton's work on failed Arkansas land deals to benefit Hubbell's father-in-law. Although the 40-page indictment doesn't accuse Mrs. Clinton of wrongdoing, it refers to her 36 times. Hubbell pleaded guilty in 1994 to tax evasion and mail fraud for stealing from his law firm and served 21 months in prison. Separately, Starr sent to the House evidence concerning allegations that the president made unwelcome sexual advances to former White House volunteer Kathleen Willey.

Clinton agreed to pay Paula Jones $850,000 to drop her sexual-harassment lawsuit, ending a four-year legal battle that spurred the impeachment proceedings against him. The agreement did not include an apology or an admission of guilt on the part of the president.

A recount of paper ballots found incumbent Harry Reid (D) still winner of the Nevada Senate race by 401 votes. Reid was declared the unofficial victor after the Nov. 3 election with a margin of 459 votes, but that was thrown into doubt when problems were detected with Washoe County's absentee ballots.

Newt Gingrich said he would serve out his current term as House Speaker before leaving office in January. Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, announced Nov. 6 he would leave Congress after elections that reduced his party's House majority to six votes.

Clinton signed legislation increasing prison sentences for violent offenders or drug felons commiting crimes while carrying guns. Those simply possessing firearms while committing a federal crime are subject to an additional prison sentence of five years. They will receive mandatory minimum sentences of at least seven years for brandishing firearms - and at least 10 years if a firearm is discharged.

The World

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Other Arab governments said Iraq's decision to resume cooperation with UN weapons inspectors had "defused" the region's latest crisis and averted the need for punitive military strikes by the US. Iraqi newspapers called the move "a victory." But the UN said it was not yet ready to return its inspectors or humanitarian-aid workers to Iraq. And the US and Britain said only when unconditional Iraqi compliance was in effect would the option of military strikes be withdrawn.

An independent Palestinian state would be a "bridge of love and peace" to Israel, Yasser Arafat claimed in a radio address. Analysts described the Palestinian Authority president's words as a new attempt to win Israeli backing for statehood, which he has vowed to declare in May. But a senior aide to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said any move to establish a state without negotiation would prompt the Jerusalem government to annex areas of the West Bank it now controls.

There was new political turmoil in Bosnia as Serb sub-state President Nikola Poplasen defied Western pressure and nominated a hard-line nationalist as prime minister. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe warned that the nominee, Dragan Kalinic, would be denied Western backing. Meanwhile, overall Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic vowed again to quit if control of the strategic northern town of Brcko is awarded to the Serb minority by international arbitrators. Their decision is expected as soon as Dec. 31.

An uneasy calm hung over Indonesia's capital after antigovernment rioting that killed at least 16 people and resulted in heavy property damage. Student leaders planned to resume the protests today despite strong backing by President B.J. Habibie for security forces who fired on the demonstrators.

If the Nov. 30 election in Quebec were held today, separatist-minded Premier Lucien Bouchard and his Part Quebecois would win, three new opinion polls showed. Analysts called the surveys somewhat surprising in view of deep problems in the province's public health system, some of whose doctors threatened to strike last week. Bouchard and leading challenger Jean Charest of the pro-unity Liberal Party are scheduled for a key televised debate tomorrow night.

Despite being challenged for the first time, President Blaise Compaore appeared certain of reelection in Burkina Faso. Compaore, who has held office since 1987, faced two opponents, neither of whom was helped by the fact that most opposition parties were boycotting the vote. Compaore also is current chairman of the Organization of African Unity.

Business and Finance

Financial markets in Japan were expected to react negatively today to the government's massive $163 billion economic stimulus plan - the largest in the country's history. Various agencies were working through the night to fine-tune the package of tax cuts and public-sector spending. But critics already were calling for spending to be redirected to urban infrastructure projects rather than doling it out to provincial governments.

Quick approval is expected next month when directors of the International Monetary Fund meet to consider more than $40 billion in loans pledged to Brazil late last week by the fund and a consortium of wealthy nations, led by the US and the European Union. Sources said the package was assembled with extra care because the IMF can't afford another fiasco like its $23 billion bailout of Russia that fell apart within weeks.

Its own 90-day moratorium on repaying billions of dollars in foreign debt expired Sunday, but the Russian government said it still may not be able to resume the payments. The Interfax news agency reported that some larger Russian banks could find enough money to pay back about one-third of their own debts to overseas creditors, but at the cost of a new drop in the value of the ruble.


"We have decided to give it [cooperation] a chance because peace, stability, preventing war ... is a noble goal." - Iraqi UN Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon, on NBC, concerning his nation's change of heart on UN weapons inspections.


Ever been stuck in traffic and thought, "I could crawl to work faster than this"? Then perhaps you can empathize with Ken Luke. To the cheers of onlookers, the principal of East Elementary School in Tooele, Utah, arrived at his office on hands and knees last Monday morning - almost three hours after leaving home. When the school year began, he promised to use the unconventional mode of transportation on that date if the student body met his challenge to read more books. It did. But what Luke hadn't counted on was the arrival of the season's first snowstorm, which dumped a foot of the white stuff on the area, making traction poor. Still, he said: "It was worth it."


Forget about the Norwegian Navy's submarine corps as an effective fighting force - at least until the mating season for codfish is over. Analysts trying to figure out why the subs were having so much trouble navigating in coastal waters finally came up with the reason. It seems schools of cod looking for mates were emitting such loud grunts that they overwhelmed sonar systems.

The Day's List

How US states compare in 'status of women' study

The District of Columbia gets top marks in a study on The Status of Women in the States by the Institute for Women's Policy Research in Washington. The nonprofit group weighed such factors as how women fare economically, how much they participate in politics, and what percentage of businesses they own. The highest- and lowest-ranked states (including the District of Columbia, which was treated as a state in the study):

Highest ranked

1. District of Columbia

2. Connecticut

3. Maryland

4. New Hampshire

5. Vermont

Lowest ranked

47. West Virginia

48. Arkansas

49. Kentucky

50. Tennessee

51. Mississippi

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