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News Briefs

Gore Defines U.S. Stand On Abortion Before Conference

Los Angeles Times

Vice President Al Gore, hoping to defuse a confrontation between the United States and the Roman Catholic Church on the eve of an international population conference, declared Thursdsay that the Clinton administration will not press other countries to adopt pro-abortion policies as a means of controlling population growth.

"Let us take a false issue off the table," Gore told reporters. "The U.S. does not seek, has not sought, and will not seek any international right to abortion. We do not believe that abortion should be a method of family planning ... and we abhor and condemn any coerced abortion," he added.

Gore's remarks were in response to the Vatican's criticism of some facets of a multi-national plan that is being designed to stabilize the world's population growth.

The plan, still in draft form, is to be debated at the U.N. Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, Egypt, next month. Experts estimate that declining mortality rates and a high birth rate will push the world's population from the current 5.6 billion to 8.5 billion by the year 2025.

Some of the programs in the plan would attempt to slow the growth by improving the economic and social status of women, expanding access to birth control and family planning advice, increasing literacy and improving healthcare for children.

U.S. Humanitarian Task Force Begins Gradual Withdrawal

Los Angeles Times
KIGALI, Rwanda

Amid signs of returning normalcy in the capital, the U.S. military's humanitarian task force has begun a gradual, quiet pull-out - just a month after President Clinton promised a "massive" American relief effort for this small country and its troubled people.

Whether the commitment by the United States has lived up to the president's promise is likely to remain a question of debate and perspective.

The soldiers and Air Force personnel in Kigali and Goma, Zaire, although modest in number, said they believed that, after a rocky beginning, their deployment ended up saving lives and putting Rwanda on the road to reconstruction.

But some private humanitarian groups, themselves overwhelmed by Rwanda's flood-tide of refugees, remained critical of how little was devoted to the crisis and how slowly the response came from the United States and other Western military forces.

"Not a single nation of the world has decided that Rwanda matters," said John O'Shea, director of the Irish relief agency GOAL. "It's been like trying to keep the tide back with our bare hands."

"I reject that," said U.S. Army Col. James R. McDonough, commander of the 210 American troops still on duty Thursday in Kigali. The deployment was down from a high of 280 and will steadily decline as more of their work is turned over to the United Nations and Rwandans.

"The first thing we had to do here was stop the dying in Goma," McDonough said. "The key to that was water. When we got there, 5,000 people a day were dying. When we left, that was down to fewer than 500. Stopping the dying was a mission given, and met."

Haiti's Battered Economy Is Grinding to a Halt

The Washington Post

Haiti's battered economy, suffering from decades of neglect and months of a full commercial embargo, is grinding to a halt, but that is still not enough to force the country's military leaders to step aside, according to businessmen and diplomats.

Since last month, when the Central Bank expanded the money supply with no hard currency to back up the new money, the nation has been hit by hyperinflation that has devalued the gourde by 40 percent. With few dollars in the economy and virtually no production, economists said, the trend can only accelerate.

"The nation is coming to a full stop," said Leslie Manigat, an academic who served briefly as Haiti's president in 1988. "It is like a locomotive, puffing along, but with the last puff will be the end. Everything is closing, business after business, store after store. Many people cannot eat anymore. Those that ate twice now have only one meal."

But, according to businessmen close to the armed forces, Lt. Gen. Raoul Cedras - Haiti's military strongman - is still betting he can outlast U.S. and U.N. determination to force his resignation along with those of his chief of staff, Brig. Gen. Philippe Biamby, and the Port-au-Prince police chief, Lt. Col. Michel Francois.