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News Briefs I

Treasury Official Says Asia Has Hurdles Ahead on Economy

The Washington Post

Deputy Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers told the nation's governors Tuesday that Asia has many hurdles to overcome before its economic health is restored and asked the nation's governors to press Congress to approve additional U.S. funding for the International Monetary Fund.

Summers, the Clinton administration's top expert on the Asian problem, said the spillover effects have infected other economies, including Russia's and South Africa's, and threaten that of the United States.

Summers praised the governors' earlier support for the new IMF funding. But, he warned that the IMFis so strapped for funds that it cannot move rapidly to deal with future crises, which "makes future problems more likely."

The administration seeks an additional $18 billion, but the issue has been stalled in the GOP-controlled Congress, where some conservatives are pushing for significant IMFreforms.

Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger pointedly criticized IMF officials for failing to take into account the political impact of their economic prescriptions in the affected countries. "It does not help political leaders to be presented with solutions that undermine their political situation," he said.

Kissinger, while praising Summers and Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin for their efforts to stabilize Asian and other economies, said the United States has been "solving the symptoms but not dealing in my view with the fundamentals" that afflict many nations. "The IMF was never designed to restructure the whole world," he said.

Marxist Rebels Bid Farewell to Colombian President thru Violence

Los Angeles Times

Marxist rebels bade farewell to Columbian President Ernesto Samper in attacks beginning late Monday that encompassed half this country's provinces and left at least 34 combatants dead and scores wounded.

Two of Latin America's oldest guerrilla groups marked the last week of the beleaguered president's term by attacking the main port city and firing mortars at a major anti-drug base, officials said, as well as by repeating terrorist tactics that have become almost routine in the violence-torn nation, such as wrecking oil installations and blocking highways.

Colombians were dismayed by the show of force because both guerrilla groups have agreed to talk peace with President-elect Andres Pastrana, who will take office Friday amid widespread hopes for a new, more conciliatory era.

"This is very serious for the peace process," police commander Gen. Rosso Jose Serrano told reporters Tuesday. "The guerrillas owe an explanation to the country." As of late Tuesday, the insurgents had not yet issued communiques to explain their actions.

In the latest round of bloodshed, at least 28 members of the police and army died as the insurgents blasted army bases with rockets and mortars, set off car bombs and attacked villages. Six rebels also were killed, officials said. Radio stations were reporting seven civilians dead, but those figures could not be confirmed. Six police officers were captured by the rebels, and another 25 soldiers and police officers were missing and feared to be in rebel hands.

Yosemite, Five Counties Agree on Bus Plan to Ease Traffic

Los Angeles Times

Voting to create a regional transit system, officials of Yosemite National Park and the five adjacent counties have taken the first official steps toward solving the increasingly serious problem of traffic congestion in Yosemite Valley. The officials voted Monday to establish a bus system that could transport more than 800,000 visitors a year by the end of the next decade.

"For the first time in 20 years of talking and planning, we have a series of steps toward creating a regional transportation system that elected officials from gateway communities can sign onto," said Chip Jenkins, chief of strategic planning and partnerships for the park.

"What was accepted yesterday was a phased-in plan for a system that will lead to a handful of buses bringing in people. Hopefully, five years from now, as we ramp this up, there will be an appreciable decrease in the amount of traffic in the valley," he said.

Scheduled to begin as a pilot project next summer from early June through Labor Day, the bus service will never rid the valley of cars, as some transit advocates have hoped. Indeed, the buses, which will run hourly from the park's main entrance and four to six times a day from other locations, aren't expected to carry more than 75,000 to 80,000 summer visitors next year.