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Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott was dispatched to Moscow in another effort to forge an understanding between NATO and Russia on how to end the conflict in Kosovo. Moscow has so far refused to sign onto plans for an alliance-led international military force to provide security in Kosovo once the bombing has ended.

NATO warships would not use force to halt shipments of oil to Yugoslavia through Montenegro, said the German general who commands the alliance's Military Committee. Gen. Klaus Naumann said, however, the panel was likely to approve "visit and search" inspections by allied warships off Montenegro. He said the plan - even without the use of force - would have a damping effect on oil imports. Russia, Yugoslavia's main supplier, has refused to halt its oil shipments.

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President Clinton is calling for a three-way summit meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders within six months of Israel's mid-May election, a senior administration official said. Speaking on condition of anonymity, he said the president would release a statement asking the two parties to immediately implement the land-for-security accord the US brokered last October. The statement would, in effect, he said, acknowledge that Israel and the Palestinians would not meet their May 4 deadline for an interim settlement on the West Bank and "final status" negotiations.

The Supreme Court agreed to decide whether the Food and Drug Administration can crack down on cigarette sales to minors. Government lawyers have argued that FDA's 1996 decision to start regulating tobacco as a drug was justified by evidence showing the tobacco industry intended its products to feed consumers' nicotine habits. An appeals court ruled Congress, not the FDA, has the authority to make the "major policy decision" on how to regulate tobacco. Also, the high court rejected an appeal in which two large local phone companies - BellSouth and US West - accused Congress of unlawfully restricting how they provide sports scores, stock quotes, and other electronic-publishing services.

Teens who receive strong anti-drug messages at home are 42 percent less likely to use drugs than those whose parents ignore the issue, a study released by the Partnership for a Drug Free America indicated. Among surveyed teens who learned a lot at home, marijuana use was 26 percent. Among those who said they learned nothing at home, 45 percent said they had used marijuana. Fourteen percent of the first group reported using inhalants; in the latter group, the figure was 28 percent. For cocaine, the figures were 7 percent and 16 percent.

Fewer US college students are taking high-tech degrees, even though the computer industry is desperate for well-trained graduates, a new study found. The American Electronics Association reported a 5 percent decline in the number of engineering, math, physics, and computer-science degrees conferred between 1990 and 1996. It also said preliminary data for 1997 and 1998 indicate the trend is continuing. Of the decreasing number of high-tech degrees awarded, the study found many - at the doctoral level, 45 percent - were granted to non-US citizens.

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