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News Briefs II

Clinton Will Pay Whitewater Bills

The Washington Post

President Clinton has promised to help pay the Whitewater-related legal bills of his friends and White House aides "if it's the last thing I ever do."

In an interview with CNN reporters on Sunday, the president said he felt "terrible" about the expenses run up by dozens of individuals questioned by Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr and congressional investigating committees. He said that after his tenure as president is over "I'm going to do everything I can to help raise the money, or to earn it myself and pay it. I think it is outrageous that these middle-class people have had their lives wrecked by pure, naked, raw politics. It is wrong."

This is the second time this month that a reporter's question about Whitewater legal bills has drawn a strong response from the president. On Aug. 1, he angrily revoked a pledge that he would support payment of about $500,000 in legal fees for fired White House travel office director Billy R. Dale. Dale was acquitted of federal fraud charges after a two-week trial. Republicans in Congress introduced legislation to pay his legal bills.

The president and his wife have incurred nearly $2.4 million in legal bills stemming from the Whitewater inquiries. A legal expense fund they set up has collected $1.1 million in the last two years and has paid $691,134 in bills, according to its latest report. The Clintons owe the Washington firm of Williams & Connolly $1.7 million.

Yeltsin Leaves Moscow for Vacation

The Washington Post

Russian President Boris Yeltsin departed for a new vacation Monday as his security chief, Alexander Lebed, waited for another meeting with Yeltsin to gain approval of a proposed political settlement for the Chechen war.

Yeltsin, who has only briefly appeared in public since his re-election, left for a government residence called Rus, 40 miles northeast of here, for what is expected to be an extended vacation. His spokesman, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, said nothing about whether Yeltsin would meet Lebed.

Lebed's office said a meeting with Yeltsin might come Tuesday. The security chief, whom Yeltsin put in charge of shaping a settlement of the 20-month-old war, returned to Moscow this weekend to seek approval of a proposed settlement he negotiated with the Chechen separatists, who are seeking independence from Russia.

Although details have not been disclosed, Lebed is reportedly carrying a compromise plan that could involve a referendum to decide Chechnya's future status. Russian news agencies reported that Lebed returned to Moscow in part to iron out any legal problems with the plan. If successful, such a political settlement would mark a major step toward ending the war, which has killed about 30,000 people, mostly civilians.

Yeltsin's decision to leave on vacation Monday followed weeks of speculation about his health. His aides have said he has not suffered another bout of heart problems but simply needs an extended rest after a grueling re-election campaign. They have refused to disclose details of Yeltsin's condition and treatments.

Netscape to Bypass PCs


Not content with its dominance in the Internet browser market, Netscape Communications Corp. announced Monday that it has formed a new company whose mission will be to help turn household devices like telephones and pagers into mini-gateways to the Internet.

In forming partnerships with IBM, Oracle and four major Japanese consumer electronics companies, the new company, Navio Communications Inc., represents a powerful challenge to the stranglehold that Microsoft's operating systems have over the Internet. The aim of the new devices: to bypass personal computers on the way to the Internet.

The president and chief executive of the new company, Wei Yen, formerly an executive with Silicon Graphics Inc., said Monday at a news conference in Sunnyvale, Calif., that Navio will produce standardized software that will provide access to the Internet for video-game machines, televisions, telephones, pagers and other consumer electronic devices.

Guerrilla Group Emerges in Mexico

The Washington Post

Leaders of a mysterious left-wing guerrilla group dedicated to overthrowing the Mexican government have emerged from hiding to claim they have 23,000 followers across the country, including forces based in the capital.

The leaders, in their comments, appeared irked that the Mexican government is belittling the existence of their group, its military strength and its ideological resolve. Seeking to emphasize their seriousness, they said the group has killed 59 soldiers in the last two months.

The declarations, made during an interview published Sunday by Mexico City's La Jornada newspaper, could not be independently confirmed. The army refused to comment. It has denied previous claims by the group to have killed soldiers in specific encounters.

The newspaper report, accompanied by a photograph of masked guerrillas armed with AK-47 assault rifles, contributed to the mystery surrounding the group, which calls itself the Popular Revolutionary Army. The newspaper, which previously had cited a confidential report by the Interior Ministry saying the group "has branches in urban areas," said the interview was conducted less than three hours from the capital.

The rebel group first appeared two months ago at a memorial service marking the first anniversary of a massacre of 17 unarmed peasants by state police in Guerrero, a Pacific coast state known for human rights violations by security forces, drug trafficking, banditry and leftist uprisings. The group called for the overthrow of the government and a new constitution.

There have been at least four armed clashes reported between the army and the rebels.