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World Briefs I

High Court to Speed Review Of Starr Request on Foster Notes

The Washington Post

The Supreme Court announced Monday it would speed up review of Whitewater prosecutor Kenneth W. Starr's demand to see notes of conversations between White House deputy counsel Vincent W. Foster Jr. and his lawyer.

The case was set for oral arguments on June 8 and a decision is likely by late June or early July, when the justices will recess for the term.

The legal issue is whether the attorney-client privilege, which ensures confidentiality, ends when the client dies, opening the way for a prosecutor to obtain information about the communication between the two. Foster committed suicide in July 1993, nine days after meeting with his lawyer and talking about firings at the White House travel office, which Starr is investigating.

In Starr's most high-profile effort, he is trying to determine whether Clinton lied under oath or encouraged others to lie during the Paula Jones case regarding any sexual relations he might have had with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. A federal trial judge recently threw out the Jones's sexual harassment lawsuit against the president, but Starr's probe of whether perjury or obstruction of justice occurred related to that case continues.

South Africa Commander Resigns

The Washington Post
PRETORIA, South Africa

South Africa's top military commander announced his resignation Monday amid accusations that an apparently false coup plot warning compiled under his command was part of a disinformation campaign to destabilize President Nelson Mandela's government.

Gen. Georg Meiring, an apartheid-era military man who became chief of the South African armed forces as part of the negotiated settlement that ended white-minority rule in 1994, denied any wrongdoing. But in handing Mandela an unsubstantiated military intelligence report claiming that black commanders were hatching a coup plot against the government, Meiring set in motion an avalanche of controversy that has buried him.

Mandela's government has characterized the coup plot report as a hoax by military elements still loyal to the apartheid regime. But Meiring said Monday, "I don't believe that." He would not say whether he believed that a coup had indeed been planned.

But as the nation's top military leader, Meiring said, he was left "no choice" but to step down. Instead of retiring next year as scheduled, he will leave his post at the end of May.

"This decision does not mean that I acknowledge that I have acted wrongly or with sinister motives, only that I am the responsible person, in the last instance, who has to see to it that the perceptions and mistrust which have been unleashed by the leakage of the report are addressed," Meiring said.

Palestinians Exonerate Israel In Bomb Maker's Death

Los Angeles Times

The master bomb maker for the militant Hamas group was killed by fellow members of the Islamic resistance in an internal power struggle, Palestinian officials declared Monday, exonerating Israel of involvement in his death.

An investigating committee has identified the killer and some of the accomplices in the killing of Mohiedin Sharif, said Nabil Shaath, a Palestinian Cabinet minister and peace negotiator. "They are people inside Hamas, they are very close to Sharif," Shaath told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Palestinian officials said five members of Hamas's Izz el-Din al-Qassam military wing were under arrest in connection with the killing and a sixth was still at large.

Hamas rejected the findings as "lies" and renewed threats to avenge Sharif's death. "They told us the same story they gave to the media, which is that they arrested five Hamas people who are behind the assassination of Sharif," Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a Hamas political leader said after Palestinian officials briefed him on the investigation in Gaza City. "We told them that this is an unacceptable story."

The clandestine Hamas military wing, meanwhile, delivered a leaflet to news agencies that said, "We reiterate to our people that the martyr's blood will not be wasted."

Sharif's body was discovered next to an exploded Fiat in an industrial zone of Ramallah on March 29. Palestinian officials publicly identified him Wednesday and said he had been shot to death three hours before the explosion.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had categorically denied Israeli involvement in Sharif's death, called Monday's announcement "a positive development" proving Israel's innocence. "It is regrettable that senior officials in the Palestinian Authority hastened to blame Israel," he said.