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News Briefs, part 2

Yeltsin Fires Man in Charge Of Destroying Germ War Stockpile

Los Angeles Times

Anatoly Kuntsevich, the retired army general assigned to abolish Russia's chemical and biological warfare programs but lately accused of working to prolong them, was dismissed from his post yesterday.

A one-sentence Kremlin announcement said only that Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin fired Kuntsevich for "numerous and gross violations" of his duties as chairman of Yeltsin's Committee on Problems of Chemical and Biological Disarmament.

Yeltsin had come under criticism at home and in the West for allowing Kuntsevich, a soldier-scientist who once ran the Soviet chemical weapons-making complex, to oversee the destruction of his own empire.

Kuntsevich was in charge of complying with Moscow's 1990 agreement with the United States to stop producing such weapons and slash their respective arsenals to 5,000 metric tons by the year 2002. His duties expanded last year when Russia joined America and 155 other nations in signing a treaty requiring the destruction of all poison gas by 2005.

But last month, Valery Menshikov, a consultant to Yeltsin's National Security Council, raised questions about the retired general's credibility. Menshikov said Kuntsevich had understated the weapons stockpile, officially reported as 40,000 metric tons. Unofficial estimates in Moscow put the stockpile at 70,000 metric tons.

Palestinian Extremist Opens Fire On Crowd, Killing One Israeli

Los Angeles Times

A Palestinian extremist, armed with a submachine gun, fired on Israeli civilians and soldiers in a drive-by attack in the Israeli port city of Ashdod yesterday, killing one person and wounding four.

The incident occurred even as the armed wing of a Palestinian fundamentalist group announced a campaign of terror, which it said would turn Israel and the occupied territories into a war zone in the next seven days.

The warning from the extremist group Hamas was contained in leaflets distributed in the territories. They said there would be four more attacks, including a rocket barrage, on Israeli targets in continuing retaliation for the Feb. 25 massacre of about 30 Palestinians in a Hebron mosque.

Later yesterday, another radical Islamic fundamentalist group took responsibility for the drive-by shooting, the second deadly Palestinian attack on Israeli civilians in two days. Islamic Jihad, which occasionally coordinates attacks with Hamas, said one of its members - a Palestinian refugee from the Gaza Strip who was shot and killed by two Israeli bystanders during the Ashdod attack - had acted in retaliation for the Hebron massacre.

Official Spells out American Air-Strike Policy in Bosnia

Los Angeles Times

The Clinton administration said yesterday it would not be willing to use U.S. air power to stop Serbian attacks on the Bosnian city of Gorazde before U.N. peacekeeping troops reach the scene, but officials suggested that some U.N. forces might arrive there soon.

The administration's position, outlined in a rare speech by national security adviser Anthony Lake, was designed to counter critics' complaints that President Clinton's refusal so far to deploy air power has effectively encouraged the Serbs to continue their siege.

Lake's remarks largely reiterated the administration's long-standing conditions for launching U.S. air strikes - including the maxim that allied aircraft would attack only to protect any U.N. peacekeeping troops that were being threatened in the area.

But officials disclosed that the administration was pressing British Gen. Michael Rose, the U.N. commander in Bosnia, to rush some U.N. forces to the city quickly, and Lake said a U.N. contingent "should soon be on its way" to Gorazde.

Lake also pledged that the administration would stand by its commitment to send U.S. ground troops into Bosnia as part of a U.N. peace-enforcement operation if the three warring factions signed a cease-fire agreement that included plans for a long-term political settlement.

Pope Marks Holocaust With Candle Burning

Los Angeles Times

Holy candles burned from a menorah in the heart of the Vatican yesterday. Six candles. One for every 1 million Jews claimed by the Holocaust.

Pope John Paul II watched the candles. He sat on a tall white-covered armchair flanked on one side by Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, the president of Italy, and on the other by Elio Toaff, the chief rabbi of Rome.

They had come to the great audience hall next to St. Peter's, and 7,500 spectators with them - Romans, diplomats, cardinals, concentration camp survivors - for an extraordinary concert marking the anniversary of the "Shoah."

When the music ended, Pope John Paul rose to talk about the candles. "The candles lit by some of the survivors symbolically show that this hall is without limits; it contains all the victims, fathers, mothers, children and friends. In this commemoration, all are present. They are with you. They are with us," he told the hushed, somberly dressed crowd in hall where he gives his weekly general audience.

The candles, the Pope told concentration camp survivors at a preconcert meeting yesterday, "keep before us the long history of anti-Semitism, which culminated in the Shoah.' But it is not enough that we remember, for in our day, regrettably, there are many new manifestations of the anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racial hatred which were the seeds of those unspeakable crimes. Humanity cannot permit all that to happen again."