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Yeltsin Cancels Meetings As He Prepares for Surgery

Los Angeles Times

President Boris N. Yeltsin slipped deeper into the background of Russian rule Monday when his aides announced he would cancel even his hospital room meetings during a "final phase" of preparation for heart surgery.

The president's latest retreat from the public limelight since his July re-election has caused mounting concern that the 65-year-old leader is too frail to rule this country, although Kremlin officials insisted the suspension was a routine step ahead of the operation.

No firm date has yet been announced for the surgery beyond the vague recommendation of a panel of cardiologists more than a month ago that it should take place in mid- to late-November.

Presidential spokesman Sergei V. Yastrzhembsky said Yeltsin would also refrain from his weekly sessions with Prime Minister Viktor S. Chernomyrdin, a brief Tuesday ritual intended to keep Yeltsin informed of the actions taken and contemplated by his constitutionally designated stand-in.

Yeltsin issued a Sept. 10 decree ceding some presidential responsibilities to Chernomyrdin for the duration of his illness and has said he will pass on the rest of his powers, including control of the nuclear button, on the eve of his operation.

Mideast Peace Talks Hit Impasse

The Washington Post

More than three weeks of intensive talks between Israelis and Palestinians foundered Monday on mutual indecision and distrust. U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross, dispatched here in the aftermath of gun battles that left more than 70 dead, announced he is flying back to Washington without a deal.

Both parties have described the talks, which center on the West Bank city of Hebron, as the first important test since Israel changed governments of the three-year-old bargaining framework that brought decades of armed conflict to a hesitant close. Neither side declared a crisis Monday night, but the departure of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for Europe left no early prospect of agreement.

For the fourth time in five days, the two sides worked until dawn in an unsuccessful sprint to finish their work.

Ross disguised a helicopter shuttle mission to Gaza as a condolence call on Arafat Sunday night after the Palestinian leader's cousin died and he cancelled all meetings. But it was nearly 2 a.m. before formal talks resumed because Israeli soldiers delayed chief Palestinian negotiator Mahmoud Abbas at the Erez crossing linking the self-ruled Gaza Strip with Israel.

Medicare Spending Falls Below Previous Forecasts

Los Angeles Times

The financially beleaguered Medicare program got some unexpected good news Monday as the Treasury Department reported that total spending for the year fell $3.2 billion below previous forecasts.

Outlays for doctor bills and hospital outpatient services were less than expected, the Treasury said as it issued final figures for the 1996 fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30. Medicare outlays were $196.6 billion for the year, a 9.2 percent increase from the $180.1 billion spent the year before but lower than the mid-session forecast of $199.8 billion in July.

Administration officials welcomed the news but were not sure whether the lower-than-expected spending was a fluke or represented a significant slowdown in inflation for the cost of caring for the 37 million Medicare beneficiaries.

"It will take awhile to crunch the numbers and figure it out," said Victor Zonana, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services. "It appears to be good news but you can't do a long-term trend analysis yet."

The program, which serves people over 65 and the disabled of all ages, is the government's fourth largest spending item, ranking behind only Social Security, interest on the national debt and defense.

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This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
This story appeared on page 2.

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