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News Briefs, part 1

U.S. Freezes Assets of Some Middle Eastern Groups and Individuals

The Washington Post

President Clinton Tuesday froze any financial assets in the United States of a dozen Middle Eastern groups and 18 individuals in what the administration called a move to prevent terrorist groups or their American sympathizers from using the U.S. financial system.

Clinton, in an executive order transmitted to 500 U.S. banks and other financial institutions overnight Monday, ordered frozen any accounts held by groups and individuals long accused by the U.S. government of sponsoring terrorism.

The action was the first in what administration officials described as a broad new effortto ensure the United States is not used as a base of operations or funding source for terrorists.

A senior official said the administration will send to Congress legislation establishing clearer federal jurisdiction over terrorist activity, criminalizing conspiracies in the United States to conduct terrorism outside the United States, providing speedier and easier deportation of aliens who engage in terrorist acts, and expanding the use of investigative techniques such as wiretaps in terrorism investigations.

Most of the groups cited are unlikely to open easily traceable bank accounts, officials acknowledged. But they said the move was a step toward stopping the transfer of funds to those groups outside the United States, and toward tracing any financial support for the banned groups from charitable and civic groups operating in the United States.

Haitian Leaders Fear U.S. Exit Is Too Hasty

The Washington Post

President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's government is increasingly concerned that the United States is pulling its troops out of Haiti too fast and with inadequate preparation for the imminent turnover to a United Nations peacekeeping force, according to government officials and diplomats.

All sides agree that the security situation has improved dramatically since U.S. troops occupied the nation Sept. 19, making possible Aristide's return Oct. 15 and restoring Haiti's first democratically elected government. The disputed questions are whether the United States is leaving too soon and whether a U.N. force will be able to sustain pacification enough for Aristide to remain in power, start economic recovery and organize a credible election to pick his successor.

About 6,000 U.S. troops remain in Haiti of a force that once totaled more than 20,000. By March 31, the number is scheduled to drop to 3,000. They will make up half of the U.N. force that is to stay in Haiti through February 1996.

While the force will be under U.N. authority, the commander will be a U.S. general. Some in the United States, especially Republicans in the new Congress, have expressed strong reservations about placing U.S. troops under the United Nations, in part because of casualties U.S. forces suffered in a U.N. operation in Somalia.

Administration Worries Loan Plan Will Be Unacceptable to Mexico

The Washington Post

As lawmakers continued to squabble over the details of a $40 billion loan-guarantee plan for Mexico Tuesday, Clinton administration officials expressed concern that too many conditions may make it unacceptable to Mexico.

"We have to be very cognizant of what fits into the political and economic situation in Mexico," Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin said following a meeting with about 40 Hispanic business leaders at the Treasury Department.

Gary C. Hufbauer, an economist at the Institute for International Economics, said there is less danger the proposal will fail in Congress than there is it will be approved "with such tough conditionality that the Mexicans will just say, Thanks, but you can stuff it.' "

All the wrangling distressed Mexican financial markets Tuesday. A widely watched auction of short-term Mexican government bonds, known as tesobonos, drew poor response from investors. The government was able to sell only $275.3 million of the $400 million it offered.

Mexico's inability to attract buyers for its bonds is of great concern because some $26 billion worth of previously issued tesobonos come due this year.