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News Briefs I

Dole Proposes Four One-on-One Presidential Debates With Clinton

The Washington Post

The campaign of Republican nominee Bob Dole Thursday proposed additional presidential debates, suggesting four one-on-one encounters between Dole and President Clinton and two between Jack Kemp and Vice President Gore.

The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates has scheduled three presidential debates and one vice-presidential forum on consecutive Wednesday evenings beginning Sept. 25 in St. Louis. While the commission has set its debates for the traditional 90 minutes, the Dole campaign has proposed 60-minute debates.

The proposal, which a Clinton strategist said would be rejected, was announced by the Dole campaign after representatives from both camps met privately for the first time to discuss the debates. The strategist, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, also said the Sept. 25 date would be "impossible" to keep because of Clinton's speech to the United Nations a day earlier.

Thursday's meeting came with a dramatic but unsuccessful attempt by Ross Perot's national campaign coordinator, Russell Verney, to be included in the preliminary talks. Trailed by reporters, who were stopped at the door after a Dole campaign aide summoned security, Verney headed into the conference room where the Clinton and Dole negotiators were meeting at a downtown office building, only to find the session was adjourning as he entered.

Fran Damage to Reach $1 Billion

Los Angeles Times

Damage estimates mounted Thursday from Hurricane Fran's deadly rampage across North Carolina last week, with the state's insurance commissioner predicting receipt of $1 billion in claims by the weekend.

Although winds were strongest at the coast, the state's inland agricultural areas were hardest hit by flooding and rain. So far, farm losses of all sorts have reached $616 million, including $341 million in crop and livestock damage, according to the state's Department of Agriculture. Of that, tobacco bore the brunt of the losses, with $185 million in crop damage.

Many inland communities remain without electricity and water a week after the hurricane passed through. As many as 141,000 homes and businesses in the state were still without power. Thirty-four deaths, including 21 in North Carolina, have been blamed on the storm.

State Insurance Commissioner Jim Long said insurance companies have received claims for $723.4 million in property damage. "We're going to hit $1 billion by the weekend, no question about it," Long said.

Public Backs U.S. Attack on Iraq

Los Angeles Times

By a margin of more than 3-1, the public approves of President Clinton's decision to fire cruise missiles at Iraq - although a substantial majority of Americans do not believe the action will achieve its purpose of thwarting future aggression by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, according to a new Los Angeles Times Poll.

Responses to a series of questions concerning the U.S. retaliation last week for Hussein's attack on Kurds in northern Iraq seemed to contain much good news for Clinton as the November election nears. By 60 percent to 31 percent, Americans said they now believe Clinton can be trusted to handle a major crisis.

Moreover, a majority of the public rejected suggestions that Clinton acted for domestic political reasons. Some 54 percent said the president's objective was to prevent Hussein from gaining more power; 31 percent said his purpose was to improve his standing in advance of the election; 10 percent said he was pursuing both objectives.

The poll also found the strike on Iraqi air defense systems in the country's southern section was more popular with men than it was with women, potentially shoring up the president's standing with a constituency that has been difficult for him in the past.