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News Briefs II

Amtrak Purchases New Trains

The Washington Post

Amtrak said it will announce plans Friday to purchase new high-speed tilt-trains for the Northeast Corridor, replacing the Washington-New York Metroliner with faster and smoother service and slashing travel time to Boston.

The Amtrak board of directors met into the evening Thursday and planned another meeting Friday morning to choose between bids from two international consortia, one led by Bombardier Corp. of Canada and the other by Siemens AG of Germany.

Government and industry sources said Thursday that Amtrak management had recommended the Bombardier bid, based on technical considerations and the generosity of the financing package offered by Bombardier. The final decision will be made by the board, however.

The contract, expected to require spending about $800 million, including maintenance facilities, was to be announced with a splash Friday at a Union Station news conference hosted by Vice President Gore, Transportation Secretary Federico Pena and Amtrak President Thomas Downs. Although Amtrak is technically a private corporation, it receives federal subsidies and a Pena representative sits on its board.

Gore and President Clinton pushed a high-speed rail agenda in the 1992 election campaign, but until now little has been done other than provide money to study a few possible high-speed corridors.

Farrakhan May Have Violated Ban By Accepting Aid From Libya

Los Angeles Times

Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan Thursday proclaimed his right to accept "aid" from Libya - even though financial dealings with that country are banned by U.S. law - but did not confirm he actually is drawing any such money.

Farrakhan also declared his willingness at a 35-minute news conference to register with the Justice Department as "an agent of God," but not as a foreign agent representing Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Farrakhan's comments came as government officials said letters from the Justice and Treasury departments had been hand-delivered Wednesday to a Farrakhan representative. The letters seek information to help determine whether Farrakhan's recent trip to Libya violated the ban on financial dealings with that country and to notify him of his possible obligation to register as a foreign agent.

A Customs Service agent delivered the letters at Farrakhan's Chicago headquarters after both departments failed in earlier attempts to obtain confirmation that Farrakhan had actually received the correspondence, a Justice Department official confirmed.

The issue of Libyan representation and Farrakhan's acceptance of any funds were raised during the controversial minister's 18-nation tour of African and Middle Eastern nations.

Whitewater Extension Fails Again

The Washington Post

Republican efforts to revive the Senate's Whitewater investigation ran into another Democratic roadblock Thursday as Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., vowed that Democrats will block any attempt by GOP leaders to turn the suspended probe over to the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

Daschle's threat was made as Republicans failed for the third time in as many days to cut off a Democratic filibuster blocking an open-ended extension of the special Senate Whitewater committee, which expired Feb. 29. The vote was 51 to 46, strictly along party lines.

Whitewater committee Chairman Alfonse M. D'Amato, R-N.Y., has threatened to turn the probe over to the banking committee, which he also heads, if Democrats continue to block extension of the Whitewater committee's authority. He escalated those threats Wednesday.

In response, Daschle said there would be serious "practical, legal and financial" complications in shifting the probe to the banking committee and argued that such a transfer is prohibited by the statute that created the special panel last spring.