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News Briefs 2

Yeltsin Will Replace Minister; Discusses Foreign Relations

The Washington Post

President Boris Yeltsin served notice Thursday that he intends to replace Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, whose pro-Western views have made him a target of criticism as Russia's political consensus has drifted toward nationalism and isolation.

In a news conference with American and Russian correspondents in advance of Monday's summit meeting with President Clinton in New York state, Yeltsin acknowledged "some coolness" in the relationship with Washington, "especially after the euphoria" that followed the end of the Cold War.

Although he took pains to emphasize his good relationship with Clinton, Yeltsin stood fast on recent conflicts between Russia and the United States, including Russia's refusal to put its troops under NATO command in a Bosnia peacekeeping force, opposition to enlargement of the Atlantic alliance and determination to go ahead with the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran.

But in a move that will be welcomed by Western military planners, Yeltsin announced that Russia is scaling back its original proposed contribution to the multinational peacekeeping force in Bosnia. He said Russia could not afford the $3 billion price tag to send a division to the Balkans and instead was considering a much smaller force.

Yeltsin answered questions extemporaneously for 70 minutes in the gilded Catherine Hall in the Kremlin, seated at a large round table with journalists in an appearance that was broadcast on television. Yeltsin, who suffered a minor heart ailment last summer, was occasionally animated but sometimes spoke slowly and deliberately.

He described the war in the separatist region of Chechnya, and the massive toll in human lives, as the "biggest disappointment I have felt in my term in office." He added, "Perhaps something could have been done better, how to say -- you could have acted in a finer manner." He said no more troops would be sent to the region. He expressed no remorse about fighting "real bandits" in Chechnya and insisted his decision to wage war there was constitutional.

Japanese Official Resigns For Criticism of U.S. Military

Los Angeles Times

Struggling to constrain rising sentiment against U.S. military bases on Okinawa, the Japanese government Thursday forced a high defense official to resign for characterizing as "stupid" Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's efforts to solve base problems through dialogue.

The incident heightened emotions in an uproar that started when three American servicemen were accused of raping a 12-year-old Japanese girl on Okinawa. Although U.S. officials -- from Ambassador Walter F. Mondale in Tokyo to President Clinton himself -- have apologized, calls have erupted in Japan for changes ranging from more stringent regulations on the 44,000 American troops in Japan to a reduction of U.S. bases on Okinawa.

Noboru Hoshuyama, a civilian in charge of the Defense Facilities Administration Agency, submitted his resignation after officials bombarded him with criticism.

"Coming at a crucial time when the entire administration is tackling the Okinawa issue, my careless remarks were a great imposition," Hoshuyama said in an evening news conference.

Lawmakers Condemn Disney For Gay Partner Benefit Plan

Los Angeles Times

Fifteen Florida legislators have signed a letter condemning Walt Disney Co. for extending health benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees, calling the policy "anti-family" and unbefitting a company that provides "wholesome, family-oriented entertainment."

The letter, addressed to Disney Chairman Michael Eisner and the company board, represented the first backlash to Disney's new "domestic partner benefit."

The benefit -- which has become commonplace in the entertainment industry -- was quietly disclosed by Disney in an employee newsletter about two weeks ago, and it takes effect Jan. 1.

Disney spokesman John Dreyer on Wednesday declined to comment, saying neither Eisner nor other company officials have received a copy of the letter.

However, Dreyer said: "The decision was made and we intend to stick to it." Dreyer said he is unaware of any other organized protest against Disney's new policy.

In interviews, some of the 15 Florida legislators said they hope their letter will persuade Disney to reconsider its policy. But if Disney does not, the lawmakers said they have no plans to take further action.

Two Teenage Girls Accused In Series of Carjackings

The Washington Post

Two Brentwood, Md. girls, ages 12 and 14, were in police custody yesterday in connection with four armed carjacking incidents over a recent two-week span.

In each case, county police said, the middle-school students asked an elderly woman to give them a ride and then threatened the victim -- twice with a toy gun and twice with a knife -- to force her to turn over her car. Three of the attempts were successful, and one failed. None of the victims was injured.

In the botched attempt, police said, the victim recognized the handgun was a toy and tried to wrestle it from one of the girls. During the struggle, the gun broke into two pieces, and the two girls fled from the car, police said.

A police spokesman said that he did not know which girl held the weapon in each incident but that both drove the stolen vehicles. The girls were taken into custody at their homes Wednesday and have been charged as juveniles with one count each of armed carjacking. Additional charges are pending.