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News briefs

Baker Urges Mideast Leaders to Plan Future Peace Talks

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

Secretary of State James A. Baker III, taking a more aggressive posture toward the Middle East peace talks, has asked all participants to return to Washington April 27 while insisting they also agree in advance to hold future talks closer to the region.

State Department spokesman Margaret Tutwiler announced Monday that Baker sent letters last week to Israel, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Palestinians with "a package proposal" to resume the talks as well as make a commitment to move them out of Washington.

Tutwiler said Baker wants agreement in advance of the next meeting that the future rounds would be held closer to the Middle East. Israel has been advocating that the talks be held in the region since last October's Madrid conference launched the current process, while the Arab participants have preferred Washington.

If the participants cannot agree on a new venue, Tutwiler said, the United States and Russia, co-sponsors of the talks, will designate a location and announce it before April 27. Tutwiler described this as a "new approach."

Russian Unemployment Increasing

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Unemployment in Russia, once so small that authorities insisted that it did not exist, will reach 15 percent or more by the end of this year and produce severe hardships in a country that lacks adequate jobless benefits, the International Labor Organization reported Monday.

The U.N. agency said that unemployment was expected to be a little lower in the other republics of the former Soviet Union, but that even there it would be massive in comparison to previous years, when the communist regime kept workers on the job even if they were unnecessary and unproductive.

Now, as a result of the effort to convert to a market-oriented system, as many as 15 million workers will lose their jobs across all of the former Soviet republics and 30 million more may be reduced to marginal work that is far below their abilities.

"The crunch is coming, one way or the other," Michel Hansenne, director-general of the Geneva-based organization, said in a written statement that accompanied the report, which was released in Washington. "From our surveys and secondary evidence, we know that over a quarter of the currently employed are surplus. We go to factories and ask managers about their ability to cut workers; all say that they have 25 percent more workers than they really need, even though they're producing at only about 70 percent of capacity."

Jordanian Escapes Prosecution

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Justice Department decided last year not to indict a Jordanian businessman in a $5 billion Iraqi loan fraud scheme after the State Department pointed out that he was "well connected" to the King of Jordan and to U.S. grain exporters, according to records made public in the House on Monday.

Government prosecutors had been planning to name the middleman, Wafai Dajani, as one of the defendants in a conspiracy to funnel billions of dollars in illegal bank loans to Iraq, but decided not to do so shortly before the indictment was returned on Feb. 28, 1991 -- the day allied forces were ordered to stop fighting in the Persian Gulf War.

In a secret internal memo that day, the State Department said it had "no objections" to indictment of any of the individuals on the prosecution's list, including Dajani, but it expressed reservations about proceeding against him in light of his connections.

Iraq received more than $5 billion worth of what the government says were "unauthorized `off book' loans and credit commitments" from the Atlanta branch of Italy's Banco Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) between 1985 and 1989, including some $900 million guaranteed by the U.S. Government's Commodity Credit Corp. Dajani's firms handled most of the CCC agricultural commodities once they arrived at the port of Aqaba in Jordan, according to Rep. Henry B. Gonzalez, D-Texas, chairman of the House Banking Committee, who discussed the matter Monday on the floor.

WEATHER

A Brief Spell of Rain

By Yeh-Kai Tung
Staff Meteorologist

A small storm system will pass through Tuesday, bringing rain. The rain will end Tuesday night, but skies will remain partly cloudy for the middle of the week. Temperatures will be slightly below normal.

Tuesday. Rain with a small chance of mixed precipitation in the afternoon. Winds northeast 5-10 mph (8-16 kph). High 47 F (8 C)

Tuesday night. Rain ending. Cloudy. Winds shifting to northwest 15-20 mph (24-32 kph). Low 34 F (1 C).

Wednesday. Partly cloudy. High 48 F (9 C). Low 32 F (0 C).

Thursday. Slightly cooler. Partly cloudy. High 42 F (6 C).