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News Briefs II

Kohl to Seek Unprecedented Fifth Term as German Chancellor

Los Angeles Times

Chancellor Helmut Kohl announced Thursday that he will seek an unprecedented fifth term when Germans go to the polls next year, cutting short a popular guessing game about whether Europe's most senior head of government would run again - and intensifying a more serious debate about whether Kohl will still have the dynamism to push through tough reforms that Europe's biggest economy needs.

Kohl revealed his plans for a fifth candidacy near the end of a half-hour session in which he broke little new ground on the subject foremost in German minds these days: jobs. Official unemployment here is 12.8 percent and rising every month, the highest percentage since the Great Depression.

Many analysts worry that a sizable percentage of these jobless are long-term unemployed - people who will never find work unless there are radical changes in Germany's generous pay structures, social benefits and working conditions.

Kohl said he decided to seek another term after more than 15 years because of the "difficult international developments" Germany is facing. He cited the eastward expansion of NATO, and the creation of a common currency for the European Union, scheduled for 1999.

Not surprisingly, opposition politicians jumped Thursday at the new chance Kohl was giving them to criticize his handling of the economy and predict that he would lose next year's election.

"Highly decent," said the left-of-center Greens' Juegen Tritten, of Kohl's announcement. "Now people will have the chance to call to account the person responsible for the highest unemployment since 1933, and vote him out of office."

Babbitt Calls on DuPont To Drop Plans For Strip Mine

The Washington Post

Coming to the alligator-infested swamp inhabited by the cartoon possum Pogo, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said Thursday he has met the enemy and it is DuPont.

Babbitt flew over the site of a proposed DuPont strip mine, and declared the plan "not compatible" with the neighboring ecosystem.

Babbitt called on the chemical giant to make a "grand public gesture by simply withdrawing" its plan to extract titanium oxide from the edge of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

Babbitt urged DuPont to avoid an expensive and protracted regulatory battle by "looking elsewhere" for titanium, which he said is in plentiful supply at many less environmentally sensitive places.

"Titanium is a common mineral," Babbitt told a supportive assemblage of environmentalists and local residents, "while the Okefenokee is a very uncommon swamp."

The swamp, covered with lush vegetation including cypress and pine trees, annually attracts 400,000 visitors, half of whom camp overnight on wooden platforms that they reach by canoe.

Babbitt's biggest stick is the Fish and Wildlife Service, an Interior agency that could stall the permit process by declaring the mine a threat to endangered species that grow in the swamp.