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News Briefs II

Defense Bill Calls On Clinton to Protect Nuclear Secrets in Files

the washington post
washington

Top officials at the White House, the CIA, the FBI and dozens of other agencies will be told within a few days to stop the automatic declassification of their oldest secrets until the Clinton administration can devise a plan for protecting nuclear weapons information that might be buried in the files.

The halt to President Clinton's bulk declassification program, lasting at least five months and perhaps much longer, is required under a compromise provision in the defense authorization bill awaiting his signature. It was inserted at the behest of senators alarmed by the accidental release of highly classified nuclear data in recently declassified documents.

Decried by critics as a major blow to secrecy reform, the rider directs government agencies to revert to a painstaking page-by-page review of all classified records more than 25 years old until procedures are developed for determining which of their documents are "highly unlikely" to contain "Restricted Data" (RD) or "Formerly Restricted Data" (FRD), as nuclear secrets are called.

Some 400 million pages of documents have been declassified in the two years since Clinton ordered automatic declassification of all historically valuable records by the year 2000.

Lebanese Army Commander Is Selected as President

Los Angeles Times
CAIRO, Egypt

With unanimous approval in parliament, Lebanon's popular army commander was elected president Thursday. But the most important vote had been already been cast - by Syrian President Hafez Assad.

Syria has exercised an unofficial, although universally recognized, suzerainty over Lebanon since 1990. And Assad gave Gen. Emile Lahoud the nod last week from Damascus.

The only dissenting voice to Lahoud's ascension as the country's 11th president was from Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, who objected on principle to a military officer becoming head of state. Jumblatt was among 10 deputies who absented themselves from the vote.

Nevertheless, Lebanese of all faiths appeared to welcome the dynamic, no-nonsense officer, credited with largely expunging sectarianism from Lebanon's military. Many expressed hope he will do the same for the government.

Lahoud will be sworn in Nov. 24 to succeed President Elias Hrawi, another Syria loyalist who served for nine years. Over the past year, Hrawi became embroiled in highly visible squabbles with Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and members of the media.