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News Briefs, part 1

Crews Pack Up As Malibu Fire 97 Percent Contained

Los Angeles Times

MALIBU, Calif.

Weary firefighters began packing up their gear, burned-out churchgoers prayed for the strength to rebuild, and one isolated canyon town threw a picnic for firefighters as the blaze that ravaged the Santa Monica Mountains finally died out Sunday.

By 6 p.m., firefighters said they had completely contained the disastrous 18,000-acre arson fire that killed three people and destroyed 323 homes and 112 miscellaneous structures in Calabasas, Malibu and Topanga.

About 570 engine companies, half of what the fire had commanded at its peak, and 216 camp crews with hand tools were summoned to duty Sunday in the coastal hills near Topanga Canyon Boulevard, county fire officials said. No injuries were reported during the day as the 5,465 firefighters and support personnel doused hot spots and cleared brush.

But as the flames continued to die down during the afternoon, the crews were dismissed. About 2,000 firefighters and support personnel in 193 fire engines remained on duty overnight, monitoring the massive but still smoldering fire, county officials said.

U.S. Postpones Trade Sanctions Against China, Taiwan

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

The Clinton administration, which has twice warned China and Taiwan to end illegal trade in products of endangered animal species, Monday said it will not impose immediate trade sanctions against the two countries to stem the trade.

Instead, the White House announced it would hold off until March, when import restrictions could be imposed if China and Taiwan do not make "verifiable, measurable and substantial progress" in halting illegal dealings in body parts of endangered rhinos and tigers.

The issuance of a third warning, rather than punitive action, was condemned by conservation organizations, who say the world's remaining rhino and tiger populations are in grave peril from poachers who sell rhino horns, tiger bones and the like to Asian consumers who use them for traditional medicinal purposes.

"It's hard to imagine a more compelling case for trade sanctions than these two species," said Jim Leape, senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund. "For six months the administration has been making threats, and those threats have yielded promises. If now it appears the threats are empty, then I think the promises will be, too."

Book Says Bush Tried to Keep Iraq Related Documents from Congress

Los Angeles Times

A book to be published Monday contends that former President Bush was personally involved in efforts to keep Congress from getting documents revealing the extent of U.S. assistance to Iraq before the Persian Gulf War.

Three unidentified Bush administration officials are quoted in the book, "Spider's Web," as saying that Bush and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, were the driving force behind the effort to keep the records from congressional committees in 1991 and 1992.

Written by Alan Friedman, an investigative reporter with the Financial Times of London, the book provides other details about the role of U.S. policy under Bush and former President Reagan in Iraq's military buildup before the 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Among the allegations are reports that U.S. military goods were illegally transferred to Iraq from a NATO base in Germany, and that a CIA operative was deeply involved in the financing of Iraqi weapons programs by the Atlanta office of an Italian bank.

Attempts to reach Bush and Scowcroft Sunday were unsuccessful. Both previously have denied any wrongdoing and have maintained that U.S. policy toward Iraq was aimed at moderating the behavior of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The Bush White House also argued that its actions in responding to congressional requests for material were legal, and simply aimed at ensuring a coordinated flow of information.