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World Briefs I

INS Grants Legal Status To Palestinians with Terrorist Ties

Los Angeles Times

In a stunning development, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has granted legal resident status to two Palestinian men it had tried to deport for nearly a decade on the grounds they have ties to terrorists in their native land.

The two men are part of a group of seven Palestinians and one Kenyan, dubbed the "L.A. 8," who have alleged the Justice Department has selectively prosecuted them for lawfully exercising their First Amendment rights in assisting the militant Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, or PFLP, in humanitarian activities.

Aiad K. Barakat and Naim N. Sharif received notices in recent days the INS had approved their applications under a 1986 immigration statute, which set up a new procedure for individuals to become permanent resident aliens.

The notices gave no explanations as to why the INS had reversed field, and no federal immigration officials were immediately available for comment. Georgetown law Professor David Cole, one of the lawyers for the L.A. 8, said the agency "never gives a statement of reasons when they grant an application, only when they deny one."

New Hong Kong Draws Criticism For Get-Tough Plans

Los Angeles Times

Hong Kong's future government's plans to strengthen legal controls over political parties and demonstrations are drawing sharp reaction from friends and foes alike.

The incoming administration invited public comment on the controversial proposals unveiled Wednesday, saying it would consider changing the draft legislation based on the feedback.

The plans include banning political parties from maintaining any links with foreign organizations or receiving money from abroad and requiring all demonstrations to be approved by police in advance.

Responses were as sharp as they were swift. The territory's largest pro-democracy group staged an impromptu march on the headquarters of the government-in-waiting Thursday - a demonstration that would be banned under the new rules, which would take effect after Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule July 1.

The leader of the Democratic Party, Martin Lee, said during a visit to Washington that the proposed laws are aimed at his group because China knows the party has wide popular support. The Democrats have the most seats in Hong Kong's legislature.

"They are so afraid of us because we have the support of the people of Hong Kong," he said. "They will do anything to stop us."

Schedule Outlined for Action on Treaty Banning Chemical Weapons

The Washington Post

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., Thursday outlined a schedule for action on a treaty banning chemical weapons that anticipates a ratification vote shortly before the 4-year-old pact takes effect April 29.

While Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., continued to block action on the treaty, Helms said in an interview he sees "some indications" that the Clinton administration may be willing to negotiate on key points, which he declined to specify. "I want to work it out so we can get to a vote," he said, but only if "the White House stops stonewalling."

Earlier, Democrats urged Lott to act on his own to bring it to the Senate floor if Helms tries to bottle it up in his committee or otherwise thwart action.

"Senator Lott is going to have to pull the trigger, so to speak," said Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Del., ranking Democrat on the foreign-relations panel. Biden described the struggle as a "test of leadership" for Lott.