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World Briefs I

Zaire's Prime Minister Seen With Large Suitcases ofCash

The Washington Post

Zaire's prime minister reportedly has converted all of the country's hard currency assets into $7 million in cash and appears to be preparing "for a speedy departure from Kinshasa with a couple of large suitcases of cash," according to a confidential State Department cable.

The cable sent to Washington by the U.S. Embassy here quotes "a well-informed source" in the Zairian financial community as saying that Gen. Likulia Bolongo, appointed prime minister last month by President Mobutu Sese Seko, drained the government's overseas petroleum accounts and has taken "personal control" of the assets.

The rebel Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire controls about three-fourths of this enormous central African country of 46 million and is now about 125 miles east of the capital.

According to the State Department cable, the source said Likulia asked for the country's hard-currency assets to be converted into cash late last month. After most of the money was shipped in from Europe - Zaire's commercial banks reportedly had only $700,000 in hard currency - a military armored car delivered the money to the prime minister's compound.

Asian American Leaders Say Clinton Is Snubbing Them

Los Angeles Times

A group of Asian American political leaders, convening here for a major annual meeting, lashed out Thursday at President Clinton, charging they were being slighted by an administration they did so much to support.

Francey Lim Youngberg, executive director of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus Institute, complained that Clinton - the keynote speaker at the group's last two annual meetings - is not attending this year's gathering.

White House officials noted that the president is in the middle of a major diplomatic trip to Mexico and Central America, but to many of the Asian American political leaders, his absence is a further sign that he is attempting to distance himself from them.

"We're being snubbed by the White House this year, and partially people feel it's a result of this political fund-raising controversy," Youngberg said.

The fund-raising scandal has focused largely on whether foreign interests, especially in Asia, sought to illegally funnel money to the Democratic National Committee during the 1996 election campaign.

Greenspan Hints Rates Will Hold

The Washington Post

Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan hinted in a speech Thursday night that the Fed won't raise interest rates again in the coming weeks if the very rapid pace of economic growth early this year slows as he expects.

Greenspan and other Fed officials have been predicting such a slowing, and a number of private economists said Thursday it appears to be occurring. After running at a torrid 5.6 percent inflation-adjusted rate in the first quarter, growth may drop to a 2 percent rate or less in the April to June period, they said.

The Fed chairman, in remarks prepared for an awards dinner at New York University's Stern School of Business, strongly defended the decision by central bank policymakers to raise short-term rates by a quarter of a percentage point in March even though there were no signs that inflation was increasing. He called the move "a form of insurance" against the possibility that growth might remain so high that it would cause inflation to accelerate later this year. A copy of the text was made available here.