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News Briefs I

Ethiopia Claims Victory in Fighting Near Red Sea

The Washington Post
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Eritrean and Ethiopian forces clashed violently again Thursday, this time on a new front 300 miles from the rocky triangle of disputed land that lies at the heart of their armed border conflict.

Ethiopia claimed a major victory in the fighting near the Red Sea on the countries' far southeastern border, saying it killed, wounded or captured 2,000 Eritrean soldiers in a sneak attack gone awry.

"This time the Eritreans may have really gotten mauled," said a diplomat here in the Ethiopian capital.

Ethiopian officials claimed that Eritrean troops surprised their forces near Bure. One Eritrean element attacked from the front, the officials said, while a second attacked from rear positions they had secretly assumed during the previous night. But the encircled Ethiopian forces repulsed the frontal attack, then "completely defeated" the Eritreans behind them when Ethiopian reserves turned up behind the Eritreans, according to a senior Ethiopian Foreign Ministry official.

Eritrea disputed that account, claiming Ethiopia had opened the new front and implying that its neighbor was trying to capture the Red Sea port of Assab, 50 miles from the site of Thursday's fight. Since Eritrea, a former Ethiopian province, gained independence in 1993, Ethiopia has been landlocked and has conducted its maritime commerce through Assab and Massawa in Eritrea, as well as through tiny Djibouti.

GM Strike May Spread to Second Parts Plant in Flint

The Washington Post

The United Auto Workers union was poised to spread its strike to a second General Motors Corp. parts plant in Flint, Mich. on Thursday night, a move almost certain to shut down the company's entire North American assembly operation by the middle of next week.

Little progress was reported late Thursday in negotiations at either plant.

In the meantime, the impact of a week-long strike against a GM metal stamping plant in Flint continued to ripple throughout the company's operations. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, GM said it had been forced to lay off 25,000 workers in 24 plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico because of a growing parts shortage. The plant makes fenders, doors and hoods for a variety of GM vehicles.

UAW officials in Baltimore said the company notified them Thursday it would close the GM assembly plant on there sometime during the second shift Friday afternoon because of a shortage of frames. The plant employs 3,100 UAW members.

Albright Warns Mexico Not to Indict U.S. Undercover Agents

Los Angeles Times

U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright admonished Mexico on Thursday to refrain from carrying out its threat to indict U.S. undercover agents who delved into Mexican territory to catch Mexican bankers in the Operation Casablanca money-laundering sting.

Despite her public defense of the U.S. agents, new evidence suggests that, behind the scenes, Albright has been highly critical of the Treasury Department handling of this matter.

In a scathing letter to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, published Thursday in the Congressional Record, Albright complained about his failure to notify her office and the Mexican government before his announcement of the sting three weeks ago.

"We might have achieved more favorable results," Albright wrote Rubin, "if we had brought [Mexican] Attorney General [Jorge] Madrazo and a few others into our confidence a few days before the public announcement.

Her admonition to the Mexicans about the threatened prosecution of U.S. agents came at a news conference closing the annual meeting of the two nation's Cabinets. "I do think that prosecution and extradition would be counterproductive," she told reporters. "We need to concentrate on the criminals. That is the point of this. We have to keep our mind on what it is we're trying to do together, which is to get those who are engaged in criminal activities that are damaging both our countries."