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News Briefs I

Under Threat of Renewed U.N. Sanctions, Serb President Demands Bosnian Serb Leader Step Down

The Washington Post

Faced with a threat of a resumption of United Nations economic sanctions against his country from the beginning of July, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic on Tuesday delivered his strongest demand yet to Radovan Karadzic to step down as political leader of the Bosnian Serb Republic.

The increasing political pressure on Karadzic, who is wanted for war crimes by a U.N. court in The Hague, coincided with a decision by the head of a European security forum to approve the holding of Bosnia-wide elections on Sept. 14. Karadzic indicated through a spokesman that he was ready to "sacrifice his power," but it remained far from clear whether any concessions that he is planning will be sufficient to satisfy the United States and its allies.

U.S. officials said the question of what to do about Karadzic and Bosnian Serb military leader Gen. Ratko Mladic will be an important item on the agenda at the summit meeting of the seven leading industrialized nations next weekend in Lyons, France. Bosnian Serb political leaders will be holding their own meeting in their capital, Pale, on the eve of the G-7 summit to decide how to respond to the international demands.

Up until now, the American strategy for getting rid of Karadzic and Mladic has focused primarily on applying pressure on Milosevic, who retains significant influence in the Bosnian Serb political entity. Milosevic is president of Serbia, which dominates what remains of Yugoslavia and which borders the Serb-controlled part of Bosnia.

Initially, Milosevic was regarded as the political godfather of Karadzic, but relations between the men deteriorated sharply over the past two years as Serbia scaled back support for the Bosnian Serbs.

U.N. economic sanctions against Serbian-led Yugoslavia were suspended following the conclusion of the Dayton peace agreement last November in recognition of the role played by Milosevic in ending the 3-year war. U.N. Security Council resolutions make clear the sanctions can be reimposed at the suggestion of either Carl Bildt, who is responsible for supervising the civilian aspects of the Dayton agreement, or Adm. Leighton Smith, the NATO commander in Bosnia. A unanimous Security Council vote would be required to overrule either Bildt or Smith.

GOP Kills Campaign Finance Reform Bill Raised in Senate

The Washington Post

The Senate on Tuesday killed a bipartisan bill to overhaul Congress' campaign finance laws, dashing already dim chances for a successful end this year to the 25-year drive to curb spending and special-interest influence on House and Senate elections.

Voting 54 to 46, the Senate indicated it supported the bill but fell six votes short of the 60 needed to cut off a GOP-led filibuster and to put the legislation on track for passage.

Even though the bill's chief sponsor was a Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, only eight of the Senate's 53 Republicans -- mostly moderates -- voted to end the filibuster. One Democrat, Alabama's Howell Heflin, voted against doing so.

Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said the vote spelled the end of Senate action on the measure for the year, arguing that it is "very hard to get campaign finance reform in an election year" when "passions are running too high."

Despite the latest in a quarter-century of disappointments on the issue, the bill's proponents vowed to keep fighting. "We will have campaign finance reform because the American people demand it," McCain said during debate.

The bill, cosponsored by McCain and Sen. Russell D. Feingold, D-Wis., would have set voluntary state-by-state limits on campaign spending and offered incentives for compliance, including free broadcast time and reduced postage rates. It sought to ban or severely limit contributions from political action committees, which are set up by interest groups to influence legislation through contributions to campaigns. It would have curtailed the flow of funds to political parties that escape federal regulation even though they are aimed at influencing federal campaigns. It would have required most of a candidate's contributions to come from the candidate's state.

In an attempt to avoid the criticism that helped sink other recent campaign finance reform efforts, the bill's sponsors dropped direct public funding as an incentive for compliance with spending limits. But critics continued to argue that proposed limits were an unconstitutional abridgment of constitutional rights to free speech and a threat to informed discourse.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the bill's principal foe, challenged the notion that too much is spent on campaigns, contending Americans spend as much on bubble gum as they do on elections. He also contended enforcement of the law would require a "gargantuan" bureaucracy with a mandate to "restrain the speech of candidates and groups all across the country."