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News Briefs

Kohl Defends German Government Actions in Saudi Arabian Arms Sale

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- BERLIN

Former Chancellor Helmut Kohl stepped into a bribery and campaign-finance scandal Monday to deny any ulterior motives for his government’s approval of a major arms sale to Saudi Arabia in 1990, a matter that included a $530,000 donation from a German arms dealer to Kohl’s political party that prosecutors say went astray.

Although Kohl and the Christian Democratic Union lost power a year ago, the party had been enjoying rebirth through a string of state and regional election successes before being hit by bribery allegations earlier this month.

Authorities in the Bavarian town of Augsburg issued arrest warrants for former CDU treasurer Walther Leisler Kiep and a German arms dealer, Karlheinz Schreiber, on Nov. 4. That occurred a few weeks after officials announced an investigation into the propriety of a $2-million payment to another Kohl-era official, Ludwig-Holger Pfahls, a former deputy defense minister, in a separate incident.

Clinton Praises Bulgarian Movement Toward Democracy

THE WASHINGTON POST -- SOFIA, BULGARIA

On a packed square where Bulgarians celebrated the end of their Stalinist government a decade ago, President Clinton praised this Eastern European nation Monday for turning its eyes and ambitions to the West. He promised more help from the United States if Bulgaria continues its movement toward democracy and a reliable economic system.

As several thousand people cheered and waved flags in the broad square before the Nevski Cathedral, with a full moon just starting to rise, Clinton hailed Bulgaria for throwing off communism and holding fair elections, even as he acknowledged the path has been bumpy.

“Communist rulers ... fed you lies, yet you sought the truth,” he said. “When the Cold War ended, it took much longer for the ground here to thaw.”

Bulgaria, like Romania, has found it difficult to evolve from life as a Soviet satellite, suffering crippling inflation and unstable governments until 1997, when Petar Stoyanov was elected president and the economy began to find its feet. Clinton spent a busy day here not only to encourage that transition but also to draw a distinction between Bulgaria and its neighbor, Yugoslavia.

Studies Address Online Trading

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Government authorities Monday waded timidly into the fray over online stock trading.

Two long-awaited studies were released, one by commissioner Laura Unger of the Securities and Exchange Commission and one by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, detailing the online trading industry’s enormous benefits and evolving problems, which have sometimes forced investors to pay tens of thousands of dollars more for stocks.

Both reports lay out some guidelines for the industry, suggest areas that need further study, and stress the need for more disclosure and investor education. Early next year, the New York attorney general’s office and the Securities Industry Association, a trade group, will spend $500,000 to run full page ads in newspapers across the country to educate investors about online trading.

Despite the enormous impact online trading is having, regulators say they must move carefully to keep from killing the industry. “I don’t want to stamp out the online brokers, and I think if we came down too hard on them right now that’s what we’d do,” Unger said.