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News briefs

Bush Vetoes Bill Linking Favorable Trade Status with Human Rights

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

In a continuing battle over U.S. policy toward China, President Bush yesterday vetoed a bill that would link favorable trade treatment for Beijing with progress on human rights, weapons proliferation and trade. Officials said the president has more than enough votes to win if Congress tries to override the veto.

White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said the president stands behind his longtime position that imposing trade penalties on China to compel it to take certain action would not be productive.

"There is no doubt in my mind that if we present China's leaders with an ultimatum ... the result will be weakened ties to the West and further repression," Bush said in his veto message. The result, he added, "will not be progress on human rights, arms control or trade."

The measure would require China to make "substantial progress" on human rights, weapons proliferation and trade imbalances before most-favored-nation trade status could be renewed after it expires in June. The bill was approved by the Senate last month by 59 to 39, eight votes short of the two-thirds needed to override a veto.

Serbs Abandon Sarajevo Barricades

Los Angeles Times

SARAJEVO, Yugoslavia

After firing on peaceful demonstrators in a clash yesterday over Bosnia-Herzegovina's right to seek independence, militant Serbs later abandoned their barricades, which had held the city hostage throughout the day.

About 5,000 youthful marchers plowed through the militants' heavily armed roadblocks around 9 p.m., after three fellow protesters had been felled by gunfire and one reportedly died of those wounds. Four others were killed in earlier gun battles, hospital workers said.

The Serbian militants left Sarajevo as swiftly as they had appeared 24 hours earlier to defy a vote endorsing secession of this central, multiethnic republic from the Yugoslav federation.

Their retreat eased fears that Yugoslavia's civil war was about to consume volatile Bosnia. But tensions remained high and Serb political leaders warned that ethnic warfare was unavoidable. Sporadic gunfire still crackled early Tuesday morning; the cacophony of automatic weapons shots tapered off, however, after the militants packed up their barricades and went home.

Mafia Aide Testifies Against Gotti

The Washington Post

NEW YORK

Salvatore Gravano, "Sammy Bull" to the fellas who befriended him and lived to tell about it, took the stand yesterday in federal court and became the highest-ranking Mafioso ever to rat on the mob in public.

What he had to say was very bad for defendant John Gotti, reputed boss of America's most powerful Mafia family, the Gambino organization. As expected, Gravano testified that Gotti planned and authorized the murder Dec. 16, 1985, of Paul Castellano, his alleged predecessor as Gambino family boss.

Unexpectedly, Gotti's former right-hand man added another detail: Gotti was on the scene, he said. Half a block from Sparks Steak House in midtown Manhattan, on the fateful evening, Gotti and Gravano sat in a car and watched the murder unfold, ready as "backup shooters" to cut down Castellano if he escaped the killers at the restaurant door, Gravano testified.

The backups were not amateurs, according to the testimony. "Nineteen," responded "Sammy Bull" when Assistant U.S. Attorney John Gleeson asked how many murders he has participated in.

Support Doubtful for Tax Bill

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

The Senate Finance Committee begins work today on its own version of the Democratic tax-cut bill that was approved last week by the House, but it still was uncertain yesterday whether the plan could win enough Democratic votes to get it out of committee.

With much of the proposal still being revised, panel chairman Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) met with Democratic committee members yesterday to outline portions of the plan, which he had drafted as a starting-point, but he reportedly fell short of mustering sufficient support.

Senate strategists said it still was not clear whether Bentsen would be able to win the additional votes today or whether the panel would be thrust into several days of internal wrangling that could delay the bill -- and possibly jeopardize it entirely.

At least three key Democrats on the panel, Sens. David Boren of Oklahoma, Bill Bradley of New Jersey and John Breaux of Louisiana, are said to be opposed to the concept of raising taxes on the rich to help finance tax reductions for others -- a key feature of Bentsen's plan.

Weather

Clearer Week Ahead

National Weather Service

Tuesday: Some morning cloudiness, then becoming sunny. High in the low 40s (4-7C). Winds north 10-15 mph (16-24 kph).

Tuesday Night: Clear. Low 25-30F (-4 to -1C).

Wednesday: Sunny. High in the mid-40s (4-7C).

Thursday: Fair. High in the 50s (10-13C).