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News Briefs 2

GOP Considers Extending Government's Borrowing Privileges

The Washington Post

Republican congressional leaders said Monday they are considering extending the government's borrowing privileges through Nov. 29 to allow Congress time to complete work on its budget and spending legislation without throwing the government into default.

The White House has pressed for a longer extension of the debt ceiling - through early January - and has accused Republicans of playing "blackmail" with the debt ceiling to force President Clinton to go along with their budget plans. However, administration officials said Monday they would reluctantly accept a shorter extension.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) disclosed the Republicans' intentions following an afternoon meeting on the budget with Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole, R-Kan., and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga).

Domenici told reporters that an extension of the budget ceiling to late November would be necessary to give the House and Senate sufficient time to negotiate a compromise on the balanced budget and tax legislation, called reconciliation, they approved last week and to give Clinton a little more than a week to decide whether to sign or veto the legislation.

"We know what we want, and we're going to have to extend the debt ceiling on a temporary basis," Domenici said. He said that Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin's latest request to boost the debt ceiling through Jan. 1 was "out of the cards."

Gingrich confirmed the possibility of a short-term extension: "We talked about that as an option - it is an option." However, Gingrich and Dole said repeatedly they are unwilling to address the looming debt ceiling crisis until Clinton initiates budget talks.

Israel Not Surprised By Syrian Intransigence

Los Angeles Times

Secretary of State Warren Christopher's meeting Monday with Syrian President Hafez Assad earned barely a shrug of the shoulders from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who once set peacemaking with Syria as his government's top priority.

"It repeats itself," Rabin said when reporters asked what he thought of Christopher's first meeting with the Syrian president since June. "Every time Christopher is on his way to Syria, the Syrians set preconditions for continuing the peace negotiations."

Rabin said before the three-hour session in Damascus that he did not expect it to produce an agreement to resume military-level talks with Israel, last held in June. And he did not seem alarmed that the negotiations are deadlocked over security arrangements on the Golan Heights, the plateau Israel captured from Syria in the June 1967 Arab-Israeli War.

Two events that unfolded over the weekend underscored the increasing marginalization of Syria in Rabin's strategic planning.

One was the assassination of Damascus-based Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki on the island of Malta. The other was the opening of a regional economic conference in Amman, Jordan, that Syria refused to attend.