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News Briefs

Sinn Fein Leader Invited To White House for St. Patrick's

Los Angeles Times

Brushing aside British objections, President Clinton gave Irish nationalist leader Gerry Adams permission Thursday to raise political contributions on his next visit to America and invited the once-outlawed official to a St. Patrick's Day party at the White House.

The latest signal of a warming relationship came after Adams' Sinn Fein party - the political wing of the Irish Republican Army - told the White House it would consider surrendering Irish Republican Army weapons as part of peace negotiations with Britain.

Protestant Unionist and Catholic Republican leaders are now studying a framework document that would chart the way for all-party talks concerning the future of Northern Ireland.

White House officials said they saw Sinn Fein's gesture as more evidence that nationalists are increasingly committed to peace. "We see momentum that we hope is becoming irreversible," said a senior administration official.

But British officials, speaking in London and Washington, indicated they did not attach the same significance to Sinn Fein's words. They did not attempt to hide their displeasure with Clinton's decision to grant Adams a visa permitting fund-raising.

Pacific Storms Pummel California

Los Angeles Times

A ferocious storm pounded Northern California Thursday, pushing floodwaters over the banks of the Russian and Napa Rivers, forcing hundreds of residents to flee their homes for the second time in only two months and closing dozens of state highways.

About 60 miles north of San Francisco in Guerneville, where hundreds of homes were inundated in January, the Russian River was rising as much as a foot an hour during the day and was expected to crest at 12 feet above flood level by Thursday night.

"It has already reached flood stage," said Janice Atkinson, a spokeswoman for the Sonoma County Office of Emergency Services. "It has been highly recommended that residents in low-lying areas evacuate and move to higher ground."

In the Napa Valley town of St. Helena, more than 300 residents took refuge in an emergency shelter when the Napa River rose to a record level of more than five feet above flood stage and water began rising around homes, a mobile home park and apartment houses.

Downriver, residents of the city of Napa were protecting their homes and businesses with sandbags and evacuating low-lying areas in anticipation of floodwaters not equalled since 1986, when the region experienced record flooding.

Thursday's storm was so severe that the Coast Guard halted all commercial shipping traffic into and out of San Francisco Bay because of winds gusting to 45 knots and swells in the bay of 11 feet.