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News Briefs II

Ailing Yeltsin Cuts Short Trip to Kazakhstan

The Washington Post

President Boris Yeltsin cut short a visit to Kazakhstan and flew back to Russia Monday suffering from what a Kremlin doctor described as bronchitis, prompting a new round of criticism from opponents that he has become too ill to serve.

Yeltsin, 67, appeared weak and nearly stumbled at one point Sunday on the first leg of a Central Asian tour to Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. At first, the Kremlin press secretary, Dmitri Yakushkin, said Yeltsin was suffering from "a cold."

Sergei Mironov, the Kremlin doctor, later told Interfax news agency that Yeltsin was suffering from tracheobronchitis with a temperature from 98.6 to 99.3 degrees. Mironov said doctors had given him antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines, but had not advised him to stay in bed, only to reduce his work load.

The Kremlin has a long history of trying to minimize and cover up the illnesses of Yeltsin, who underwent quintuple coronary-artery bypass surgery in late 1996. During the 1996 re-election campaign, he suffered a heart attack but it was disclosed only after the voting.

Yeltsin's sway over Russian politics has ebbed so far that a public opinion survey broadcast over the weekend said that only 1 percent of those questioned said they trusted the president.

World Trade Organization Overturns U.S. Law on Sea Turtles

The Washington Post

An American law protecting sea turtles was overturned by an appeals panel of the World Trade Organization Monday, angering U.S. environmentalists and setting up a possible confrontation between the United States and global trade's governing body.

U.S. officials - who are caught between American support for the WTO and President Clinton's commitment to the environment - said they would consult with Congress on how to respond to the ruling.

The decision "does not suggest that we weaken our environmental laws in any respect, and we do not intend to do so," said U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky.

The decision overruled a U.S. law stipulating that any shrimp imported into the United States must be caught with nets using special devices that allow trapped turtles to escape. Environmental groups say up to 150,000 turtles a year drown in shrimp nets worldwide. The United States and environmental organizations said the net law was covered under a general exception allowing trade barriers in cases of "exhaustible natural resources" or protecting animal life.

Most countries have implemented the devices on their shrimp fleets. But four countries - India, Pakistan, Malaysia and Thailand, which actually requires the devices but protested on principle - filed suit against the law before the WTO.

Unlike its predecessor organization, the WTO has supranational authority over its 132 member nations. Countries that are found to violate trade agreements must change their laws to comply or negotiate compensation to injured countries.