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News Briefs II

White House, Germany at Odds Over First-Strike' Use

Los Angeles Times

In its first public split with the new government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, the Clinton administration on Monday rebuffed a German proposal to have NATO repudiate "first-strike" use of nuclear force.

As German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping began a round of high-level talks here, U.S. officials asserted that retaining the option of being the first to launch a nuclear strike would provide the same deterrent value it had during the decades of the Cold War.

"It is something that is integral to the NATO strategic doctrine," said U.S. Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

German officials have been hinting that they will press for a change in the doctrine. In an interview published over the weekend by the German magazine Der Spiegel, German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said Germany wants to take up the issue with NATO "because we see things differently."

These public assertions are alarming American officials, who have come to expect smooth relations with their biggest NATO ally and who have been assured that the new government would continue most national security policies of its predecessors.

Some U.S. officials said they are uncertain whether Germany is trying to mollify some of the more pacifist elements of the governing coalition - Fischer is a member of the Green Party - or whether the issue signals a more fundamental change in German attitudes about the conduct of the 16-nation alliance.

"I can't tell whether this is a gesture or something more important," said one U.S. official, adding, "It is a concern."

Georgia Supreme Court Strikes

Down Law Against Sodomy

The Baltimore Sun

Bolstering a multistate campaign to end criminal prosecution of private sex acts between homosexuals, the Georgia Supreme Court struck down that state's law against sodomy Monday.

The Georgia court became the seventh state tribunal in recent years to nullify or severely weaken state laws that are designed mainly to outlaw gay and lesbian sex.

Among gay rights issues being fought out in courts and legislatures, the challenges to sodomy laws have most often succeeded, even as efforts to overturn restrictions on gays in the military and on same-sex marriages have failed.

The Georgia ruling is one of the most important of the recent decisions for symbolic reasons: The state court struck down the same sodomy law that the U.S. Supreme Court had upheld under the federal Constitution 12 years ago.

The Georgia ruling appears to enhance the prospects that state guarantees of privacy will provide the basis for other states' courts to nullify sodomy bans.

The court challenges have been matched in success by efforts in state legislatures to repeal such laws. The latest repeal, in Rhode Island this year, brought to 26 the number of states to eliminate sodomy laws by legislative action.