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News Briefs I

Yeltsin Fires 4 Top Aides

The Washington Post

In an impulsive show of strength, President Boris Yeltsin left the hospital Monday, returned to the Kremlin and fired four top aides. In a familiar show of weakness three hours later, he was back in the hospital to recuperate from a prolonged bout of pneumonia.

Yeltsin dismissed his chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, and three deputies on the grounds that they were lax in fighting the corruption, crime and anti-Semitic outbursts that are convulsing Russian political life. He named Gen. Nikolai Bordyuzha, who heads Yeltsin's security council, to replace Yumashev; the other posts were left vacant.

Yeltsin also ordered the Justice Ministry and tax police to report directly to him and not just to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov.

The spectacle of the ailing Yeltsin coming out of seclusion to dismiss associates has become a common event. Last spring, he returned from a week's convalescence to fire Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Democracy Activists Applaud Nigerian Vote

The Washington Post

The high turnout in last weekend's local elections in Nigeria augurs well for the country's effort to end years of military rule-and is important in boosting efforts throughout West Africa to democratize, African analysts said Monday.

While Nigeria's election commission has not released overall figures on voter turnout, the long lines at polling stations throughout Africa's most populous country underscored people's enthusiasm for the return to civilian government being led by the head of state, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. Throughout the region - including Gabon, which held its own elections this weekend - Africans have been closely following the Nigerian evolution.

As results accumulate from Saturday's voting for Nigeria's local government councils, it appears that state and national elections to be held in the next 12 weeks will be contested by three parties - two broad coalitions and a narrower, but powerful, party based mainly in the southwest and representing the aspirations of the Yorubas, one of Nigeria's three largest ethnic groups.

Clinton's Itinerary Irks Israelis

The Washington Post

He is leader of the free world, of Israel's most important ally, of the nation that forks over $2.9 billion annually to the Jewish state. But as President Clinton prepares for a three-day visit to the Holy Land this weekend, some ranking Israeli officials have made clear they would prefer he stay home.

The speaker of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, is boycotting all Clinton's scheduled events. The agriculture minister has advised him publicly not to come. The education minister, scorning the trip, declared Clinton a dupe.

Clinton's schedule in Israel itself, the fourth and longest trip here of his presidency, is not the issue. Rather, what has whipped up emotions is his plan to spend a day in the Gaza Strip, headquarters of Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority, plus a few hours in the Palestinian-ruled portion of the West Bank. First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to have her own schedule in Palestinian territory as well.

Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who supported the visit six weeks ago, is not exactly bubbling with hospitality - perhaps because his shaky coalition government has since come under threat by right-wing partners bitterly opposed to any accommodation with the Palestinians.

"If he wants to come, he should come," the Israeli premier said flatly. "If he does not want to come, he should not come."