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World Briefs II

Mitsubishi Removes Two Officials After Harassment Lawsuits Filed

The Washington Post

Mitsubishi Motor Corp. has replaced the top two Japanese officials of its U.S. auto operations as part of the continuing fallout from the sexual-harassment suits filed against the company's manufacturing plant in Normal, Ill., company officials confirmed Monday.

The changes were announced just days after former Secretary of Labor Lynn Martin met in Tokyo with the parent corporation's board of directors to discuss the progress being made in the effort to eliminate sexual-harassment problems at the Illinois plant.

Martin was hired last May to recommend workplace changes after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the biggest sexual-harassment suit in its history against the company.

The lawsuit, filed in April 1996, charged that male employees and managers at the Illinois plant engaged in repeated acts of sexual harassment from "grabbing, groping, and touching" to requiring women to engage in sexual relations to keep their jobs.

The company has denied that the sexual harassment was as widespread as the government alleges and is in negotiations to settle a separate private sexual harassment suit.

A company source, who asked not to be identified, said Monday the personnel changes had been made at the Illinois assembly plant out of concern that several key officials in the plant - both Japanese and American - were resisting recommendations by a Martin-led task force to prevent harassment inside the plant.

Local Elections in Italy Boost Communist Conservatives

The Washington Post

Italy's small but powerful Communist Refoundation Party made advances in local elections on Sunday, consolidating its position of influence over the government of Prime Minister Romano Prodi.

Conservative opposition parties ran strongly in Milan and Turin, the largest of more than 1,000 cities and towns that elected mayors and councils. Results showed their candidates leading in the two northern cities, at the expense of the separatist Northern League, but not by big enough margins to avoid runoffs on May 11 against candidates from the center-left coalition.

Although Prodi and his allies have played down the effect of the local elections on national policy, they were viewed as the first test of voter support for the government. The results were summed up in Monday's headline in the newspaper Il Messaggero: "Opposition makes gains. Coalition in hands of Communist Refoundation."

The elections also set the stage for negotiations next month on trimming the welfare state. Communist Refoundation has stated it will oppose any cuts.

The elections in Milan and Turin illustrate how the Communists wield influence over parties in the government's coalition. In both cities, they ran candidates, drawing 8 percent of the vote in Milan and nearly 10 percent in Turin. In the runoff next month, the center-left candidates, who lag behind opposition candidates, will need Communist votes to win.