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News Briefs, part 2

Boutros-Ghali Again Defends Somali Mission

Los Angeles Times

UNITED NATIONS

Taking on the Clinton administration once again, secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali addressed the West Point cadets Thursday night and insisted that the United Nations must use military power to deal with crises like Somalia or face "the spread of anarchy."

The secretary-general, who vehemently opposes President Clinton's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the Somali mission by March 31, told the future U.S. military officers, "Peace enforcement must be an option, for diplomacy without strength will not be regarded as serious."

Shortly after Boutros-Ghali spoke at the U.S. Military Academy north of New York City, the 15 members of the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution extending the U.N. mission in Somalia for another six months, 45 days beyond the date of the scheduled U.S. withdrawal.

The council, however, put off for two to three months any decision about officially changing the character of the mission. In a report earlier this week, Boutros-Ghali told the council that, in view of the anticipated U.S. withdrawal, the council would soon have to decide whether to maintain, restrict or eliminate the authority of U.N. troops to use force in Somalia.

House Passes Bill That Would Outlaw Abortion Clinic Blockade

Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON

The House adopted legislation Thursday that would outlaw abortion clinic blockades and impose stiff fines and prison sentences for acts of violence against clinic staff members or patients.

After an emotional debate that split congressional anti-abortion forces, the House passed the bill by voice vote.

Tuesday, the Senate approved a slightly weaker version on a 69-30 vote. Supporters said they hoped a conference committee could quickly reconcile the differences between the two pieces of legislation so a final bill could be sent to President Clinton for his signature before Congress adjourns next week. Otherwise, final action will be delayed until lawmakers return in January.

The House bill would make it a federal crime to obstruct access to an abortion clinic and impose penalties of as much as $100,000 and a year's imprisonment for the first offense. Repeat offenders would be subject to prison terms of as long as three years. Anyone committing acts of violence resulting in injury or death would face prison terms ranging from 10 years to life.

The Senate version would impose weaker penalties for non-violent, first-time offenders.

Political Reform Bills Approved In Japan's Lower House

Los Angeles Times

TOKYO

In a major victory for Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, a landmark set of bills that could help usher in the most sweeping political realignment in postwar Japan won approval Thursday in the powerful lower house of Parliament.

The four bills to change the electoral system and beef up anti-corruption laws passed by a 270-226 vote, bringing Hosokawa a major step closer to fulfilling his pledge to enact reform by the end of the year.

The provision to redraw the nation's electoral districts for the first time since 1947 could set off far-reaching political and economic changes. By giving new clout to Japan's long-suffering urban voters and speeding the drive toward deregulation, the proposed change could bring about new policies to cut farm subsidies, lower prices, alter land use, redistribute tax burdens and increase consumers' disposable income -- all of which could help boost economic growth.

Redistricting could also clear the way for new parties and alliances, while further weakening two mainstays of the Cold War era: the conservative Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled Japan for 38 years before being ousted from power this year, and the opposition Socialists.

The bills now go to the upper house, which faces a deadline of Dec. 15 to enact them. Because Hosokawa's seven-party coalition has a majority in that chamber as well, the bills are expected to pass.

U.S. Businesses Pressuring Clinton To Strengthen China Ties

Los Angeles Times

SEATTLE

A few weeks ago, President Clinton opened his mail to find what is described as a "blistering" personal letter from one of his past supporters: C. Michael Armstrong, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Hughes Aircraft Co.

The letter complained bitterly to Clinton about his China policy. Hughes officials will not release the text but say it covers in more personal terms what Armstrong is also saying publicly: that U.S. sanctions against China could cost Hughes alone "a billion dollars of business and 4,000 to 5,000 jobs."

As Clinton prepares to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin Friday in the highest-level meeting between the two countries since 1989, Armstrong's letter demonstrates how and why American policy toward China is changing.

Clinton is under increasingly intense pressure from the American business community to smooth over American relations with China, to ease the sanctions that have been imposed for its export of missile technology and to make sure the Beijing government maintains its most-favored-nation trading benefits, which expire next year.

Chinese officials have been astute enough to recognize the growing strength of the commercial interests regarding U.S. policy and to goad them along. On Thursday afternoon, shortly after landing in Seattle, Jiang paid a visit to the Boeing Co., which sees China as its most important export market in the future.