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News briefs, part 1

Ruling Starts Brawl In Russian Congress

The Washington Post

MOSCOW

Russian legislators erupted in a pushing, pummeling brawl in the Great Kremlin Hall Thursday after an angry and emotional debate about Russia's reforms, bringing the day's session of the Congress of People's Deputies to a premature close and leaving unresolved the future of President Boris Yeltsin's reformist government.

Dozens of deputies shoved and jostled each other near the speaker's podium while Yeltsin at first watched in apparent disgust from his raised seat and then stalked out. Others stood on the arms of their chairs for a better view, hooting and cheering, while one peered through a long green spyglass to catch all the action. Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov made a hasty exit after declaring an indefinite recess.

Afterward, in a Kremlin lobby buzzing with excitement, some deputies decried the melee as "shameful," "repulsive" and "embarrassing." But others, noting that similar scenes have been recorded in parliaments in Japan and South Korea, joked that Russia was simply "trying to live like civilized countries elsewhere," as Leonid Gurevich said.

The brawl ostensibly concerned a procedural matter, relating to whether a key vote Friday will take place by secret or open ballot. But it appeared in fact to reflect the deep anxieties of many conservative deputies, who see power they enjoyed under the Soviet system slipping away, and the frustrations of liberal reformers, who believe progress toward democracy and a free market is being blocked by the Congress, elected in 1990 under the Communist system.

Many deputies said they expect the Congress to vote Friday on constitutional amendments that would strip Yeltsin of much of his authority. A no-confidence vote on Yeltsin's acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, the architect of Russia's economic reforms, is also possible Friday or Saturday, parliamentary leaders said.

Despite the high emotions of the day, several deputies predicted that Yeltsin and the Congress are headed for compromise, if only because neither side commands a reliable majority of votes. To strip Yeltsin of his power, the parliament would have to approve several constitutional amendments by two-thirds majorities that even conservatives acknowledge are likely beyond their reach.

Yeltsin, similarly, may be unable to win the simple majority he needs to confirm Gaidar as premier. But his supporters say the president could refuse to nominate another candidate, keeping Gaidar in his current post of acting prime minister.

Clinton Meets With Greenspan

The Washington Post

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.

President-elect Clinton conferred Thursday with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan in a meeting that Clinton's spokesman said was meant "to lay the groundwork for a productive relationship" with an official whose cooperation could be critical to Clinton's economic programs.

Clinton met for more than an hour at the governor's mansion with Greenspan, who was reappointed by President Bush last year to a second four-year term.

"Governor Clinton's goal is economic growth without heightened inflation. He thinks that's achievable," said communications director George Stephanopoulos. "That's the kind of thing they're talking about today. I don't know if they'll get into specifics on the economic plan, but I think those basic principles will be in discussion."

The lunch meeting with Greenspan came as Clinton finalized his initial choices for key administration positions, with announcements expected after he returns from his trip to Washington next Monday and Tuesday. Speaking to reporters as he started his morning jog, Clinton promised, "You all will have some news to chew on in the next few days."

Clinton told a local newspaper publisher who asked him about a local environmental issue, "As a matter of fact, I've been interviewing some people about" the Environmental Protection Agency.

A key transition official said that Clinton had decided on about a half-dozen appointments and was beginning the process of notifying both his choices and other candidates who had been interviewed for those posts. Transition aides have done background work, and provided memos summarizing their findings on close to 100 people for some 26 Cabinet and other top positions, the official said.

Despite the proliferation of foreign policy problems awaiting the president-elect, his foreign policy team is not expected to be among the first wave of appointments, this official said.

"The United States has a secretary of state in place, we have a president in place, and they're handling the policy. We're going to proceed at our own pace," Stephanopoulos said.

Weather

Snow!

By Yeh-Kai Tung
Staff Meteorologist

A small storm system combined with the cold air over us will bring some snow Friday night into Saturday. It should be fairly light, with accumulations ranging from half an inch to one inch. This fast-moving storm will pass over by Saturday night, leaving partly cloudy skies for Sunday.

Today: Clouding up in the afternoon. Strong southwest wind 15-20 mph (24-32 kph). High 41F (5C).

Tonight: Snow starting in the evening. Continued strong westerly winds 15-20 mph (24-32 kph). Low 28F (-2C).

Saturday: Snow ending around noon, then overcast skies. High 38F (3C).

Saturday night: Cloudy. Low 31F (-1C).

Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High 41F (5C).