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News Briefs I

Israeli Cabinet Begins Stormy Debate on Peace Agreement

Los Angeles Times

The Israeli Cabinet on Thursday began a marathon debate on the U.S.-brokered Middle East peace deal, amid signs that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was fighting to shore up support in his rebellious right wing and indications of a possible new conflict with the Palestinians.

The stormy Cabinet session, which was delayed three times in recent days while Netanyahu sought and received assurances from the United States about a Palestinian plan to combat terrorism, broke up near midnight and was expected to resume Friday morning. A vote is likely Friday, Israeli officials said.

When it comes, Netanyahu is expected to win narrow endorsement of the agreement, which calls on Israel to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for specific Palestinian steps to fight terrorism. But he faced bitter resistance Thursday from far-right members of his coalition, particularly religious nationalists who oppose the idea of giving up any part of the lands they call Judea and Samaria.

United Nations Security Council Rebukes Iraq on Inspections


The Security Council unanimously condemned Iraq Thursday for refusing to cooperate with U.N. arms inspectors but avoided threatening any consequences for continued defiance.

The relatively mild council resolution was apparently the strongest the U.S., British and Japanese diplomats were able to muster and still get unanimous support for condemning Iraq for its decision to stop cooperating with U.N. arms inspectors. Chinese Ambassador Huasun Qin boasted Thursday that he had forced the sponsors to drop language declaring Iraq's action "a threat to international peace and security," a phrase directly lifted from the U.N. charter section authorizing the use of force.

Most of the Security Council members Thursday spoke only of settling their dispute with Iraq peacefully, but the United States maintains it has the authority to act militarily against Iraq if it chooses. Earlier, President Clinton warned Iraq that "all options are on the table" to force Iraq to comply with the arms inspectors, who have been in Baghdad since Saturday awaiting orders from U.N. headquarters.

University of California Officials Laud Same-Sex Health Coverage

Los Angeles Times

Extending health benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees has cost the University of California far less than predicted, adding about $1 million to its yearly $442 million health insurance bill.

And university officials said the year-old policy has not spawned any costly lawsuits, as was suggested last November by Gov. Pete Wilson during his attempt to scuttle the benefits.

"Frankly, we have not seen any downside," said Lubbe Levin, UC's assistant vice president for human resources. "It seems to have made a big difference in overall morale. And it's helped us with our recruitment and retention of the most talented faculty and staff, since most of our competitors offer this."

UC Board of Regents decided - by one vote - to include same-sex domestic partners in the university's health plan despite an all-out fight mounted by Wilson, who condemned the decision for "devaluing the institution of marriage."