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News Briefs

Japan Ready to Commit $2 Billion Aid to Russia

los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

Japan now seems prepared to commit as much as $2 billion in immediate aid to Russia despite its continued insistence that Russia return four islands seized after World War II as a precondition for substantial financial support, officials here and in Tokyo said Thursday.

Japanese officials have assured Western leaders that Japan would contribute to an aid package to be announced next week at a meeting of officials of the seven large industrial nations. At the same time, however, they are refusing to give ground on the islands' issue.

While the $2 billion figure is far less than Japan can afford to give -- it ran a $107 billion trade surplus with the rest of the world last year -- its agreement to make even that level of contribution represents significant movement. Previous aid discussions have faltered over the islands' dispute.

Japanese officials have in the past floated proposals for as much as $26 billion in aid for Russian reconstruction, on the condition that the Russian-occupied islands, the southernmost of the Kuriles just north of Japan, be returned to Japanese sovereignty. The Japanese refer to the islands as their Northern Territories.

New Premier Warns French Of Sacrifices to End Crisis

The Washington Post

PARIS

France's new Prime Minister Edouard Balladur warned in his maiden policy speech Thursday that his conservative government will demand stringent sacrifices to pull the country out of what he described as its worst social and economic crisis since the war.

Speaking before the National Assembly, where the conservative alliance captured 80 percent of the 577 seats in national elections last month, Balladur promised a sharp break with the previous Socialist government that had lost credibility with voters because of rising joblessness, corruption and street crime.

Balladur affirmed that the conservatives would move quickly to revitalize the economy by selling state enterprises and lowering taxes on employers so they can hire more workers. He also promised to crack down on illegal immigrants through expulsions and tighter border controls as part of a tough law-and-order policy. But he urged law-enforcement authorities to exercise "greater self-discipline" after the shooting of a young immigrant in detention and other charges of police brutality this week that led to the suspension of four policemen.

2 U.N. Electoral Workers Assassinated in Cambodia

The Washington Post

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia

Two United Nations' electoral workers, including a Japanese volunteer, were shot to death Thursday while driving in a stronghold of the Khmer Rouge guerrillas. Their deaths brought to seven the number of U.N. peacekeepers killed over the past two weeks.

The body of Atsuhito Nakata, 25, was found under his bullet-riddled car, which had been stopped by armed men, U.N. spokesman Eric Falt said. Nakata had managed to radio for help and to maintain radio contact for more than 30 minutes after he was stopped, Falt said.

Nakata's Cambodian interpreter, Lay Sokphiep, was critically wounded when found by another electoral worker a few minutes after radio contact was lost, Falt said. The interpreter was evacuated to Phnom Penh but later died of his injuries.

Weather

Slow Change

By Marek Zebrowski
Staff Meteorologist

A typical slow-moving spring weather pattern favored us with a string of nice days, cool sunshine and stiff sea breezes notwithstanding. Come Friday, a transition will begin -- as a huge area of disturbed weather located in the Tennessee and lower Ohio valleys will gradually move towards the mid-Atlantic States and New England. The impressive dynamics of this system will tap into the inflow of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and, subsequently, from the Atlantic by early Saturday.

A stage therefore will be set for a cloudy, rainy, and generally unpleasant weekend ahead. With persistent southeasterly winds and astronomically high tides, localized coastal flooding is likely; inland communities, especially in the hilly terrain might receive a very substantial rainfall for about 24 hours beginning late Saturday, and rivers, already swollen by the melting snows of last winter are expected to rise above the flood stage again.

Alas, no significant clearing will take place until the middle of next week, when a cool high pressure from central Canada will nudge the stubborn and slow-moving rainmakers out of our area.

Friday: Clear to partly cloudy, with some patchy clouds possible in coastal areas. Highs around 58F (14C), cooler at the shore. Winds east to southeast at 10-15 mph (16-24 kph).

Friday night: Becoming cloudy and damp. Low around 42F (6C).

Saturday: Cloudy and quite cool with raw, onshore winds. Highs around 50F (10C). Rain will begin by late afternoon and continue through the night.

Sunday outlook: Rainy and raw with strong easterly winds. High temperatures only in the mid 40s to low 20s (8-11C).