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News Briefs I

Japanese Plan Gives World Markets a Lift

The Washington Post

Japan took a big step Monday toward reaching final agreement on how to shore up its ailing banking system, sending stock prices skyward in securities markets in the United States and around the globe.

Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and some of his top lieutenants said they had cobbled together enough support from opposition parties to win swift approval of legislation that would inject more than $500 billion in government funds into weak but viable banks. The idea behind the giant bailout - which would be more than triple the size of the U.S. savings and loan cleanup - is to make such banks strong enough to start lending again and end a credit crunch that is strangling the Japanese economy.

Although some analysts were skeptical that the plan would tackle Japan's deepest-rooted problems, investors responded enthusiastically to evidence that the leaders of the world's second-largest economy were finally moving toward some resolution of the nation's seven-year period of stagnation.

Japan's Nikkei stock index, which sank to a 12-year low early last week, rose 5.2 percent; Hong Kong's main stock index rose 5.7 percent, and Singapore's rose 4.1 percent. Fueling the optimism was the "headline number" of 67 trillion yen - or about $567 billion at current exchange rates - that Japanese officials said they were prepared to commit to the banking bailout.

Monitors Challenge Election Claims

The Washington Post
BAKU, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan President Heydar Aliyev claimed victory Monday in Sunday's presidential election, although partial returns and opposition allegations of fraud have thrown into doubt his assertion that he won at least two-thirds of the vote.

Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe say that the election "did not comply with international standards," and Etibar Mamedov, the leading opposition candidate, announced that he will contest the election in court.

The Central Election Commission, controlled by an Aliyev appointee, declined to release preliminary results and said it could take up to a week for final returns to be tallied. Aides to Aliyev, who needs at least two-thirds of the vote to avoid a runoff, claimed that the president received 75 percent, compared to 11 percent for Mamedov.

In a sign of mounting opposition to Aliyev's rule, the election was preceded by anti-government protests and was boycotted by several parties.

New Federal DNA Database Takes Effect Today

Los Angeles Times

Beginning Tuesday, police throughout the country will be able to attempt to match DNA evidence from convicted felons with that collected in unsolved crimes, using a national computer system run by the FBI.

Jan S. Bashinski, the primary developer of California's DNA database, which began operating in 1992, said the FBI's new crime-fighting tool could reduce the number of sex crimes and make it harder for criminals to evade authorities by crossing state lines.

"It's going to allow DNA to achieve its full potential," said Dwight Adams, chief of the FBI Laboratory's scientific analysis section.

Currently the FBI computer holds DNA profiles of 250,000 convicted felons and genetic evidence recovered from the scenes of 4,600 unsolved cases.