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News briefs

Senate Approves Bills on Gag Rule, China Trade

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Senate Monday laid down markers for two high-profile veto fights before the November elections as it approved bills to overturn administration rules banning abortion counseling in federal clinics and to put conditions on trade with China.

Both bills were previously vetoed by Bush, and the vetoes were sustained by Congress. But Democratic leaders have embarked on a policy of forcing Bush to veto bills in an attempt to dramatize differences on politically sensitive issues.

Repeal of the "gag rule" on abortion counseling was passed by voice vote as part of a broader bill extending authorization for federally financed family planning clinics for another five years.

The legislation, approved earlier by the House by a margin that fell short of the two-thirds necessary to override a veto, now goes to Bush, who is considered virtually certain to veto it.

In brief debate, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., condemned the legislation as another in a series of "anti-family" bills promoted by Democrats to embarrass Bush, while Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, charged that the anti-counseling rules were an attempt to "placate opponents of reproductive rights."

Rules to implement the ban, which the administration has modified to permit doctors but not other health professionals to offer abortion counseling, are scheduled to go into effect Sept. 23.

Lawmakers have also included language to reverse or suspend the counseling ban in two appropriations that Congress is preparing to pass before it adjourns next month, including the emergency spending bill for relief of hurricane victims. This language could also prevoke veto fights that the administration is considered likely to win.

The China trade bill, which was also approved without a recorded vote, would require Beijing to meet certain conditions, such as progress on human rights, weapons control and elimination of unfair trading practices, before favorable trade conditions are extended again to China next year.

The Senate bill makes some modifications in legislation approved earlier by the House and is expected to be sent shortly to Bush, who vetoed similar legislation earlier this year and is expected veto this version as well.

Reformers Claim Win in Thailand

The Washington Post

BANGKOK

Democratic parties opposed to military domination of Thai politics claimed victory Sunday in national elections four months after a bloody crackdown on anti-military demonstrators.

The voting and events leading up to it showed a weakening of traditional military influence over Thailand's economic and political life, and widespread vote-buying seemed to have less of an impact this time than in past elections.

Four parties with links to the armed forces were projected as falling well short of a majority in parliament, despite having greater resources with which to buy votes -- traditionally a key to victory here.

Unofficial returns showed the Democrat Party, headed by lawyer Chuan Leekpai, narrowly leading the field of 12 political parties in the election for a new 360-seat lower house of the National Assembly. The Democrats and three other democratic parties appeared likely to win 51 percent of the seats, enabling them to form a coalition with Chuan as the new prime minister, state-run television reported.

Chuan, a veteran politician who has held various posts in previous governments, including that of deputy premier, said he would consult the other parties about forming a coalition government. Military leaders, traditional kingmakers in Thai politics, said publicly that they would not interfere. Chuan has pledged to keep corrupt politicians out of his cabinet and to pursue the economic liberalizaton and free-trade policies of the country's current caretaker government.

The voting, in which Thailand's 32.8 million eligible voters chose among more than 2,400 candidates, generally was peaceful, but political violence on the eve of the election left at least seven people dead. Five activists of the Palang Dharma Party of democrat Chamlong Srimuang were shot to death in eastern Thailand, and two youths were gunned down in Bangkok while putting up posters accusing a party leader of corruption.

Weather

Sunny Weather to Continue

By Michael Morgan

Staff meteorologist

A ridge of high pressure extending from the South Central US to the western North Atlantic will continue to provide sunny warm days and clear cool nights through at least Wednesday. A weakness in the ridge may allow some clouds and perhaps showers to affect the region late Wednesday or Thursday.

Today: Mostly sunny and warm. Winds southwest 10 mph. High 77F (25C).

Tonight: Clear and cool. Low 58F (14C).

Tomorrow: Mostly sunny and warm. High 75-80F (24-27C). Low 59-64F (15-18C).

Thursday: Partly sunny and continued warm. A shower possible. High 74-79F (23-26C). Low 60-65F (16-18C).