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World Briefs I

Yeltsin Agrees to Delay Kiriyenko Vote for Prime Minister Spot

The Washington Post

President Boris Yeltsin yielded yesterday to parliamentary leaders and agreed to postpone a vote on his nominee for prime minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, until after a "round-table" discussion next week with political leaders, including Communists who said they will vote against Kiriyenko.

Yeltsin backtracked - six days after demanding a quick vote - to avoid a confrontation with parliament, aides and analysts said. At a meeting with legislative leaders 60 miles outside of Moscow, Yeltsin offered to listen to their suggestions for new cabinet members.

Yeltsin, 67, met yesterday with Yegor Stroyev, 61, head of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, and Gennady Seleznev, 51, speaker of the lower house, the State Duma, at the Rus guest lodge northwest of Moscow. Critics in parliament have said Kiriyenko, 35, is too inexperienced to be Yeltsin's second-in-command. If Yeltsin dies or is incapacitated, Kiriyenko would temporarily become president of Russia.

If the Duma rejects Yeltsin's nominee three times, he can dissolve the parliament and call new elections. Voting on the prime minister is one of the major prerogatives of the parliament; the 1993 constitution created a super-presidential system putting most powers in the hands of Yeltsin. Duma leaders have been playing hard to get since Yeltsin first announced the nomination of Kiriyenko.

Israel on High Alert After Funeral for Hamas Bomb Maker Sharif

Los Angeles Times

Israel should have been breathing a sigh of relief at the death of its No. 1 fugitive, top Hamas bomb maker Mohiedin Sharif. Instead, Israeli security forces were battening down the hatches Thursday in the face of the militant Islamic group's vows of revenge.

As 10,000 angry Palestinians turned out in the West Bank town of Al Birah to bury Sharif's scorched body, Israeli officials worked overtime trying to persuade the Palestinian leadership that their security forces had nothing to do with the death.

Israeli troops clashed with stone-throwing Palestinian youths at a Jewish settlement on the outskirts of Al Birah, firing rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition to break up the crowd, while police set up highway roadblocks in Israel and sent reinforcements to markets, shopping malls and bus stops.

Speculation continued about who was responsible for the assassination, or whether it even was an assassination. But amid the funeral chants to "Hit Tel Aviv" and the banners declaring "Glory to the Martyrs," the answer seemed irrelevant.

Sharif's body was found next to an exploded Fiat Uno in an industrial area of the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday but was not formally identified until Wednesday. Israeli explosives experts who viewed the site insist that it was a bomb factory and that Sharif died in a working accident. But a Palestinian pathologist has said that Sharif died of bullet wounds to the chest several hours before the explosion. Officials say the investigation is still open.

IRS Urges Delay in Some Overhaul Provisions for Year 2000 Problems

The Washington Post

The Internal Revenue Service, worried about the time it will take to fix Year 2000 computer problems, has asked the Senate Finance Committee to delay several provisions of its bill overhauling agency operations.

The restructuring bill would ease some tax penalties and give taxpayers important new rights in disputes with the agency. But the proposed legislative changes also would require the IRS to rewrite programs for its computer systems, a task that would interfere with the agency's timetable for year 2000 repairs.

Internal Revenue Commissioner Charles O. Rossotti, in a letter Tuesday to Senate Finance Chairman William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) suggested that the effective dates for several provisions be put off generally from the expected date of enactment, probably later this year, until Jan. 31, 2000, and July 31, 2000.

The date problem stems from how many computer systems use a two-digit dating system that assumes 1 and 9 are the first two digits of the year.

Without specialized reprogramming, the systems will recognize "00" not as 2000 but 1900, which could cause computers to stop working or to start generating erroneous data.