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The US

American jets fired missiles and laser-guided bombs at a air-defense site in southern Iraq after it launched six to eight missiles at a British aircraft, US officials said. There were no reports of any casualties, and the US and British planes were said to have returned to their bases safely. On Monday, American warplanes exchanged missile fire with Iraqi air defenses when they were fired upon by Iraqi surface-to-air missiles. The Iraqi military reported that four of its soldiers were killed and seven others injured in that exchange.

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Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to form an exploratory committee for seeking the presidency in 2000. Former Sen. Warren Rudman (R) of New Hampshire will co-chair the committee with Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of Arizona. McCain is the first in his party to take formal steps toward a 2000 presidential bid. Among Democrats, former New Jersey Sen. Bill Bradley and Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone have established such committees.

House prosecutors said they want to call witnesses at President Clinton's impeachment trial, but neither Senate majority leader Trent Lott nor minority leader Tom Daschle endorsed the plan. Lott said he believed a trial could be held without witnesses.

The merger of British Petroleum and Amoco Corp. was conditionally approved by the US Federal Trade Commission. The FTC said the merged companies must sell off 134 gasoline stations and nine light-petroleum terminals - while clearing the way for 1,600 independent gasoline stations to switch gasoline brands if they wish. The new company would be third in size in the industry behind the proposed Exxon-Mobil merger and Royal Dutch/Shell.

Clinton will travel to Mexico and Central America Feb. 10-15 for talks with Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and to visit areas hit by hurricane Mitch, the White House said. The president was expected to visit Honduras - and he was said to be considering additional stops in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador, although a final itinerary had not been set.

The US Court of Appeals ruled that the FBI may have unjustifiably withheld information on the late novelist James Baldwin from author James Campbell. The agency had provided Campbell several thousand pages of files on Baldwin, but refused to turn over other records. The 3-to-0 ruling was seen as a caution to US agencies withholding data under the Freedom of Information Act without giving justifications detailed enough to be examined by a court. The ruling came 10 years after Campbell originally sought FBI files on Baldwin - and years after publication of Campbell's Baldwin biography.

A law requiring sexually explicit cable-TV channels to completely block their signals to nonsubscribing households was ruled unconstitutional by a three-judge panel in Wilmington, Del. The opinion from a judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia and two US district judges puts to rest for now 2-1/2 years of legal wrangling over the 1996 Communications Decency Act. It was a victory for Playboy Enterprises Inc. in its legal battle against Section 505, designed to protect children from images that sometimes "bleed through" even when a household doesn't subscribe to sexually explicit TV channels.

The US added more than 2.5 million people this year, the Census Bureau reported. It estimated that the population - as of Jan. 1 - will be 271,645,214.

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The World

European finance ministers and central bankers were preparing to meet in Brussels to introduce the euro Friday. Banks and stock markets planned to spend the New Year weekend adapting trading floors and computer screens to include the new currency. The euro will be used alongside the standard currencies of 11 European Union nations for three years, but will replace them after that.

Diplomatic tensions escalated between NATO allies Greece and Turkey over the divided island of Cyprus. Turkey pledged to use military force to prevent the deployment of Russian missiles to the Greek island of Crete. The missiles were originally destined for Greek zone of Cyprus, which is divided by barbed wire from the Turkish-occupied north. But the $500 million missiles were moved to Crete at the last minute by Cyprus President Glafcos Clerides, who rules the island's Greek zone. His concession was welcomed by Britain and the US, but Turkey's foreign minister said it would add to an "already dangerous situation."

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk refused to to grant amnesty to two Khmer Rouge defectors. The popular king's stance was at odds with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said the former Khmer Rouge leaders would not be tried for genocide. As a constitutional monarch, Sihanouk cannot order a trial.

Britain and Australia were trying to determine why four hostages died in Yemen during a rescue attempt. Three Britons and an Australian were killed Tuesday after Yemeni security forces stormed a kidnappers' hideout to rescue 16 Western hostages. Yemeni officials said security forces opened fire once it became clear the kidnappers were starting to kill hostages. But surviving hostages blamed the Yemeni forces for provoking the attack.

Indonesia's President B.J. Habibie ordered prosecutors to finish their corruption investigation of former leader Suharto before June's national elections. Habibie set the deadline after the government announced that corrupt business practices, largely by Suharto's family and associates, had cost Indonesia up to $580 million over the past five years. The deadline seemed unlikely to appease student protesters, pushing for an immediate trial of Suharto.

In a national broadcast, Guatemala's president apologized for the government's role in the country's 36-year civil war. Alvaro Arzu spoke to some 5,000 people at a football stadium in Santa Cruz del Quich. His address marked the second anniversary of a treaty ending the war between Marxist rebels and military governments. Some 140,000 people died in the conflict, many of them Indians. Below, Arzu talks to a Mayan priest at the stadium.

More people may face famine, malnutrition, and endemic hunger next year, the World Food Program warned. The UN agency said problems could worsen because of hurricane Mitch, the economic collapse in Russia and Indonesia, and civil wars in Kosovo and Angola.

Business and Finance

The index of leading economic indicators rose a sharp 0.6 percent last month - its biggest gain since February 1996 when it rose 0.8 percent, the Conference Board reported. The November reading surpassed October's 0.1 percent jump and beat economists' forecasts for a 0.4 percent rise.

Seven US firms and the United Steelworkers of America filed a petition with the US International Trade Commission, saying steel wire-rod imports are seriously harming their industry. The agency, after reviewing the petition, could recommend that the president act to limit imports - a process likely to take eight months.

Citrus farmers sorting through freeze-damaged crops in California's San Joaquin Valley are finding more salvageable fruit than originally expected, but losses are still huge, officials said. Gov. Pete Wilson declared a state of emergency in four of the hardest-hit counties and said he was writing the president to ask for federal assistance.


'I ask forgiveness for the historic responsibility [the state] has for the pain and death

suffered by dozens of thousands of Guatemalans.'

- Guatemalan President Alvaro Arzu, speaking on the second anniversary of a treaty ending the country's civil war.

Move over Times Square

Officials in Port Clinton, Ohio, are hoping an artificial walleye named "Wylie" can lure more than 6,000 celebrants to their New Year's Eve festivities. The 500-pound fish has eyes made of two glass casserole dishes embedded in a painted fiberglass body reinforced by steel cables. Port Clinton - which is halfway between Cleveland and Toledo on the coast of Lake Erie - is not trying to compete with New York City, but the official plan is to drop Wylie from a crane when the clock strikes midnight.

The Day's List

Poll probes subject matter of New Year's resolutions

In a recent survey by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, 38 percent of respondents said they planned to make New Year's resolutions this season. Twenty-nine percent said they had made such resolutions last year - and 52 percent of those people said they had actually achieved their goals. Here is a statistical representation of how those who are planning to make resolutions this year replied when asked "What is it that you resolve to do or not to do in the New Year?"

Spend less money 18%

Stop smoking 15%

Lose weight 15%

Exercise more 13%

Eat healthier 8%

Be kinder to others 4%

Stop drinking 3%

Get rid of a bad habit 3%

Improve one's health 3%

Increase family time 3%

Go back to school 3%

Travel 2%

Stop procrastinating 1%

Set goals 1%

Move or buy a new home 1%

Get a new job 1%

Other 6%

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