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News Briefs, part 1

Israel Agrees on Functions Transfer in West Bank, Gaza Strip

Los Angeles Times

TABA, Egypt

Israel has agreed on the transfer of most civilian government functions in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to a new Palestinian self-governing authority, and negotiators made progress on some of the most difficult issues blocking an agreement on Palestinian autonomy, delegates said Tuesday.

"I hope we'll be able to really consider it a milestone that has been accomplished on the way to doing this agreement,'' chief Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said of the agreements now covering almost every aspect of civilian administration in the occupied territories; the areas since 1967 have been in the Israelis' hands.

Meeting for the second day in this Egyptian Red Sea resort, negotiators attempted to go beyond the crucial security issues that for months have stymied agreement on Palestinian autonomy. Instead, they sped their way through other nagging issues -- from economics to who controls the telephones -- that have also remained in dispute.

After a long, closed meeting between Shaath and Israeli delegation chief Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, Palestinian negotiators said they expected to reach agreement this week on 37 of 38 areas of civil administration in Jericho and Gaza, which will pass into Palestinian hands for a five-year period of autonomy once an agreement is concluded.

Judge Finds USAir Negligent In 1992 Crash that Killed 27

Newsday

A federal judge in Cleveland ordered a verdict of guilty against USAir Tuesday in a multimillion-dollar negligence suit stemming from the March 1992 crash of Flight 405 at New York's LaGuardia Airport that killed 27 people.

U.S. District Judge Thomas D. Lambros issued the directed verdict after the conclusion of testimony in a 1{-month jury trial that combined more than 30 lawsuits. Lambros did not explain his ruling, but observers said he apparently decided USAir was negligent after testimony that it had declined to give its crews the most up-to-date de-icing chemical available because of the cost.

Flight 405, its wings heavily iced, was unable to gain altitude while taking off in a snowstorm and crashed into Flushing Bay, killing 27 and injuring 24 other passengers and crew members. The National Transportation Safety Board said the crash was caused by a buildup of ice on the wings.

Pledge Signed to Combat South Africa's Escalating Violence

The Washington Post

PRETORIA, South Africa

President Frederik W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, president of the African National Congress, issued a joint pledge Tuesday to combat South Africa's escalating political violence.

After a four-hour meeting, the two leaders struck a note of cooperation -- even optimism -- on a issue that has been in bitter contention between them. Both were adamant that despite the escalation of violence, they did not see a threat to the nation's ability to hold a free and fair election on April 27, when blacks for the first time will be able to vote in South Africa.

De Klerk said he had received "important inputs from the ANC's side,'' and Mandela said "a great deal of progress'' had been made.

Although details will not be disclosed until next week, de Klerk made clear they would join in launching an initiative on "community policing'' -- an effort to establish some level of community control over police in black townships, where they are often viewed as perpetrators rather than protectors.