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News Briefs I

Clinton Defends His Nominee To Head CIA

Los Angeles Times

President Clinton, reacting to growing reservations among Republicans, gave an unsolicited defense of his nominee for CIA director, Anthony Lake, and called on the Senate to move ahead with confirmation hearings.

"We've now answered all the questions that we've been asked" about Lake's qualifications, Clinton volunteered at the end of a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu '76. "I think he ought to be given a hearing and a vote."

Clinton was referring to the answers to 25 questions about Lake posed by Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., chairman of the Senate Select Committee, which has jurisdiction over the confirmation process for Lake.

Although several members of Clinton's cabinet have already been confirmed, the Senate has twice delayed hearings on Lake's nomination because of questions about his activities as national security advisor to Clinton during his first term.

Saudi Arabia Puts F-16 Jet Fighters Deal on Hold

Los Angeles Times

In a blow to the American aerospace industry, Saudi Arabia has informed the United States that it will not try this year to buy 102 F-16 jet fighters in a deal worth as much as $15 billion, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The Saudis are delaying any purchase out of anger at the Israeli reaction to their plans and advance publicity about them, U.S. sources said.

The sophisticated warplanes produced by Lockheed Martin were expected to be discussed later this month during a visit by the highest ranking Saudi delegation to come to Washington in a decade. But now, "No formal request will be made any time soon," said a well-placed Mideast source.

Clinton confirmed that the Saudis had not asked for the F-16s. Washington would "seriously consider" any future request but would not do anything to undermine Israel's security.

Clinton Responds to Report of China's Attempt to Funnel Funds

Los Angeles Times

As a Senate panel approved a ream of new subpoenas in the growing fund-raising scandal, President Clinton said Thursday he considered a report that the Chinese government may have sought to direct foreign contributions to the Democratic Party "a very serious matter."

The report in Wednesday's Washington Post, citing unidentified sources, said that "sensitive intelligence information," some of which was obtained through electronic eavesdropping, indicated that the Chinese Embassy in Washington was used for planning contributions to the Democratic National Committee before the 1996 presidential campaign.

"Obviously it would be a very serious matter for the United States if any country were to attempt to funnel funds to one of our political parties, for any reason whatever," Clinton said at a news conference.

On Capitol Hill, there were renewed calls for Attorney General Janet Reno to name an independent counsel to look into fund-raising improprieties. But Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick said the Justice Department, which currently is conducting the criminal inquiry, has not determined that there is proper cause for such a move.