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Briefs

Christopher Says Israel-Syria Talks Enter New Phase'

The Washington Post
JERUSALEM

Secretary of State Warren Christopher arrived here Thursday on his 13th Middle East shuttle mission amid signs of movement in the long moribund talks between Syria and Israel.

There has been a striking change in tone by both governments in recent days, enough so that the habitually cautious Christopher allowed himself to declare the opening of a "new phase" between the historic foes and "a moment of real momentum in the peace process."

Nearly every day since late last month, a top Israeli government figure has broken new ground in intimating Israel's willingness to give up the Golan Heights, the strategic plateau conquered from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. The characteristically harsh Syrian press, for its part, has welcomed the Israeli remarks and praised the American mediating role.

In Thursday's editions of the Syrian newspaper Al Baath, which conforms precisely to the government line, editor Turki Sakr wrote of the "positive expectations drawn from the American sponsor's engagement," adding that they had made "brighter the prospects of the breakthrough that the intensified American efforts are meant to achieve."

Tax Cut' Issue Hangs Over Hill Budget Talks

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

As congressional negotiators formally began talks Thursday in search of a compromise budget plan, House Republicans voted overwhelmingly to reaffirm their support of a $354 billion tax cut and a dozen influential Senate Republicans vowed to oppose any plan that includes a major tax cut.

Thirty-one Republican and Democratic House and Senate conferees held what is likely to be their only public meeting before GOP leaders hammer out a compromise behind closed doors.

While Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M., and House Budget Committee Chairman John R. Kasich, R-Ohio, had little to say about taxes in their opening remarks, a growing rift between conservative and moderate Republicans over taxes has greatly complicated prospects for reaching a settlement.

The House-passed GOP resolution calls for a $354 billion tax cut, including a $500-a-child tax credit and a sharp reduction in the capital gains tax, while the Senate version contains no specific tax cuts, only the promise of $170 billion in tax relief down the road provided Congress succeeds in adopting a budget certified by the Congressional Budget Office to eliminate the deficit.

Justice Department Again Scrutinizing Microsoft

The Washington Post
WASHINGTON

The Justice Department's antitrust division is looking into how an electronic network that Microsoft Corp. plans to launch in August might affect the on-line industry.

America Online in Vienna, CompuServe and Prodigy, the country's three leading commercial on-line services, received requests for information from the Justice Department earlier this week, company representatives said. The Justice Department asked the companies to respond on an unusually tight deadline: ideally, by Friday.

"We have a lot of this information assembled," said Kent Stuckey, general counsel for CompuServe. "The request is actually a continuation of a dialogue that had been going on for some time. I expect we could respond pretty promptly," he added.

This is the third time the Justice Department has looked at the business practices of Microsoft, the world's largest personal computer software company.

Last summer, after an almost five-year government investigation, Microsoft agreed to change how it licenses its DOS and Windows "operating system" software. That settlement has yet to be approved by a judge. In April, the department filed suit against Microsoft's plans to acquire Intuit Inc., the country's biggest provider of personal finance software, causing Microsoft to drop the deal.

Yesterday the department would not confirm the precise nature of its inquiry into the network. "We're looking at the possibility of anti-competitive practices in the computer software industry," said Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the department.

Greg Shaw, a spokesman for Microsoft, said the company couldn't comment on whether there was an investigation going on. Even so, he added, "It's not any secret that several of our competitors are lobbying the Justice Department to look at the Microsoft Network."