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News Briefs I

Pentagon Panel Proposes Opening Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

A Pentagon study group on Monday proposed opening the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery to investigate with DNA testing whether the unidentified remains of a Vietnam-era serviceman are those of an Air Force pilot.

After four months of deliberation, the panel said the testing would probably succeed in determining whether six bones in the revered crypt belong to 1st Lt. Michael J. Blassie. The tests should be performed, the panel said, to bring certainty to Blassie's family, which has been unsure of his fate in the 26 years since his A-37B fighter plane was downed by ground fire near An Loc, Vietnam.

Even so, Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said he reserved a final decision on the recommendation until he had heard from Pentagon lawyers. "My position is to wait until I get some counsel," Cohen said during an appearance on Capitol Hill.

Despite Cohen's hesitation, Blassie's younger brother said the family was pleased with the drift of the Pentagon's deliberations. "We're very encouraged," George Blassie, 36, who lives in St. Peters, Mo. "We believe the final decision will be to disinter the remains for testing."

Netanyahu Plays Down London Meetings With Albright and Arafat

The Washington Post
JERUSALEM

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he does not believe next Monday's meetings in London involving him, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright are a "make or break" event of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"It's being presented as such, but I think the interest in peace is too strong to be dependent, to pivot, on one meeting alone," Netanyahu said.

Albright said Sunday in New York that the peace process is in "grave danger." She said, "It is no longer enough just to talk or to talk about having more talks. We have been going around in circles long enough."

Netanyahu also stepped up his warnings to Arafat in response to the Palestinian leader's vow to declare statehood on May 4, 1999, a date set in the Oslo peace accords for the completion of negotiations.

"We won't accept a new Iran or a new Iraq" beside Israel, Netanyahu said. He said declaration of a Palestinian state "would be a direct violation of Oslo and would dissolve the agreement."

Arafat has accused Netanyahu of stalling on the agreements made by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and has said he would declare statehood even though the "final negotiations" that the Oslo accords set for completion on that date have not yet begun.

Gingrich Assails Privilege Claims For Secret Service Agents

Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON

House Speaker Newt Gingrich called on President Clinton and his administration Monday to stop asserting legal privileges to keep Secret Service agents and other witnesses from testifying before a federal grand jury being run by independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr.

"We do not have a divine right of presidents," the Georgia Republican told the Atlanta Rotary Club. "Obviously the Secret Service has to testify if it's about the law."

Gingrich's statement put him at odds with former President George Bush, who wrote a letter last week supporting the Clinton administration's position that Secret Service agents should not be compelled to testify about what they may have seen or heard. Bush said he was concerned that such forced testimony could destroy the bond of trust that must exist between any president and his security detail.

Starr has complained that assertions of legal privilege by the White House have slowed his 3-month-old investigation into the truthfulness of Clinton's sworn testimony about his dealings with former White House intern Monica S. Lewinsky and former White House worker Kathleen Willey, and whether he encouraged others to lie under oath about such matters.