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News Briefs II

China Pledges to Keep Yuan’s Value Stable

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BEIJING

Trying to assuage renewed fears that China plans to devalue its currency, the country’s top banking official reiterated Thursday that the yuan will remain stable in 1999.

Dai Xianglong, governor of the People’s Bank of China, pledged to maintain the yuan’s current value and denied rumors that the Communist government has secretly been studying ways to devalue.

“This year we will have a stable renminbi,” which is commonly called the yuan, Dai said at a news conference in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, where the National People’s Congress is holding its annual session. “As governor of the People’s Bank of China, I have never asked other people to study and I have never studied myself a timetable for the devaluation of the renminbi.”

Dai’s assurance that the yuan will not be devalued follows weeks of renewed speculation over the currency’s stability as the Asian financial crisis drags on. Comments by the central bank governor in January, which suggested that the yuan would remain at about 8.27 to the dollar only so long as China’s balance of payments and exports remained healthy, were interpreted by some outsiders as a softening of Beijing’s repeated assertions against devaluation.


FBI: Missing Sightseers Likely Victims of Violent Crime

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- MODESTO, Calif.

A trio of sightseers who mysteriously vanished outside Yosemite National Park three weeks ago “almost certainly” were the victims of a violent crime at or near the rustic Sierra lodge where they were staying, an FBI official said Thursday.

“After this length of time, it would be a miracle if we recovered the victims alive,” FBI special agent James M. Maddock said during a news conference at the agency’s command post in a downtown Modesto hotel.

But the families of the threesome continue to hold out hope for Carole Sund, 42, her daughter and teen-age friend from Argentina. Francis Carrington, the Eureka woman’s father, said he and others “still think there’s a good chance” their loved ones might somehow be alive. “I just hope and pray we get some answers in the next couple of days.”

Maddock cautioned that, short of a surprise break in the case, the probe could take some time. “It could well be a long-term investigation,” he said, declining to elaborate on any evidence that might have been found. “I expect it will be.”

The FBI has focused its hunt on El Portal, the tiny town outside Yosemite where Sund and the two young women were last seen. El Portal has only a handful of businesses and about 650 residents.