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News Briefs I

GOP Leadership Attacks Abortion Procedure Litmus Test

The Washington Post

Republican Party leaders Tuesday began a full-scale drive to kill a proposed party resolution that would prohibit giving financial support to any candidate who opposes a ban on a controversial late-term abortion procedure that opponents call "partial birth" abortion.

In a statement sent to all 165 members of the Republican National Committee 10 days before the party is expected to debate the proposal at its winter meeting, RNC chairman Jim Nicholson said: "The question before us is whether we should establish a litmus test. The answer to that question is no. It's a slippery slope that only serves to divide our great national party."

Three former RNC chairmen, Richard N. Bond, Haley Barbour and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, lined up behind Nicholson. "I think this would be incredibly destructive to the Republican Party should it pass," Bond said.

Tim Lambert, a Republican National Committeeman from Texas, has proposed the resolution that appears certain to dominate proceedings at the RNC meeting in Indian Wells, Calif. and to revive the split between the conservative populist and country club wings that has plagued the party for party for 20 years.

Lambert would establish as RNC policy that no money or in-kind support could go to "any candidate or nominee of this party who opposes measures to end so-called partial-birth abortion."

He said Tuesday rejecting his proposal because it creates a litmus test fails to recognize the seriousness of a procedure that he said amounts to "infanticide. There are some things so bad that we can't support them."

Tobacco Settlement Money Already Spent in Upcoming Budget

The Washington Post

In the budget he will release next month, President Clinton plans to spend $10 billion from the national settlement of legal claims against the tobacco industry.

The only trick: The settlement has not actually been settled.

By including the money in the budget even before tobacco legislation is crafted, the White House is taking a calculated risk that pressure will increase on the Republican-led Congress to pass the comprehensive multibillion-dollar package - or risk taking the political heat in the fall mid-term elections if it does not.

"There's a good prospect we will get a national tobacco settlement," said Rahm Emanuel, Clinton's senior adviser. Yet even as they seek to turn up the heat on lawmakers, some White House aides acknowledge they have put more at stake for the president. With his budget now counting on the money, they believe, Clinton must make the tobacco issue a high priority for the upcoming congressional session.

The fiscal 1999 budget the administration will send Congress in early February assumes that the federal government will collect $10 billion from whatever legislation ultimately is passed, whether it be in the form of excise taxes or "voluntary payments" from cigarette manufacturers. The administration's budget will outline how the money should be spent - mostly to tobacco-related initiatives previously envisioned by negotiators, such as increased regulatory enforcement, anti-smoking campaigns and biomedical research.

U.N. Food-Aid Officials Call for Help to North Korea

The Washington Post

Warning that North Korea could run out of food by April, the United Nations World Food Program appealed to the world Tuesday for $378 million in emergency aid to avert widespread starvation and malnutrition in the isolated communist country.

In making its largest-ever appeal for help, the Rome-based WFP said it needs 657,972 metric tons of food to distribute to 7.5 million people in the months ahead. During 1997, the WFP gave food aid to 4.7 million North Koreans. The total North Korean population is about 23.2 million.

"We got through last year by the skin of our teeth and managed to avert a major disaster," Katherine Bertini, the WFP executive director, told a news conference in London. "The international community has been very generous, and we are calling on it to be more generous to prevent food shortages from becoming a famine."