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News Briefs

GOP House Members Oppose Sending U.S. Troops to Kosovo


Ignoring administration fears about the impact on Kosovo peace talks, Republican House members declared staunch opposition Thursday to sending U.S. peacekeepers to the region if an agreement is reached.

A close vote was expected late Thursday night on a nonbinding proposal to support the use of U.S. troops to enforce the agreement, a vote that would signal widespread GOP misgivings about the mission and complaints that the military already is stretched too thin.

“There is simply no vision to the mission, no timetable, no strategic game plan -- symbolic of the lack of direction of our entire American foreign policy,” said House Majority Whip Tom Delay of Texas, one of President Clinton’s most vociferous critics.

“We’ve had a six-year trend of sending American troops anywhere for any reason but no consistent goals to tie all of these missions together.”

But Democrats argued that President Clinton’s promise to include 4,000 American troops in the NATO force is critical to stopping the separatist Serbian province’s ethnic violence.

Pope, Khatemi Call for New Muslim-Christian Dialogue

THE WASHINGTON POST -- vatican city

Iranian President Mohammed Khatemi shook hands with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Thursday and called for a spirit of reconciliation and a new dialogue between the Islamic and Christian faiths.

Their cordial half-hour meeting reflected the apparent ambition of both men to improve relations between Muslims and Christians, who disagree on many social and cultural issues and in recent months have clashed openly in nations such as Indonesia and Egypt.

One of the three mullahs accompanying Khatemi made an unusual gesture of kissing the pope on the cheek, eschewing a more traditional kiss of the pope’s ring. Khatemi shook hands with John Paul and called for “common understanding between religious and people,” according to a Vatican statement. He also expressed hope for a “victory” by those who believe in a single God, “together with peace and reconciliation.”

Justice Said to Be Near ‘Final Decisions’ on Tobacco Probe


Amid signs that the Justice Department task force that has been investigating the tobacco industry is gradually being dismantled, a senior official said Thursday that the department is near making “final decisions” about the future of the five-year probe.

Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder said Justice Department officials “are getting close to, I think, a time when we’re going to have to make some final decisions” on whether to seek indictments based on the investigation. He described the probe as “ongoing,” adding that “I wouldn’t say (the task force) is down to a skeletal force.”

But other sources confirmed that the size of the tobacco task force appeared to be dwindling with the reassignment of key lawyers and some FBI agents to other tasks, including the federal bribery investigation into Salt Lake City’s winning bid to host the 2002 Winter Olympics.

“Their team appears to be being reassigned to other matters,” said a lawyer who is familiar with the investigation