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News Briefs

New Commission to Examine Iraq

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- UNITED NATIONS

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday unanimously approved a new plan designed to rid Iraq of its remaining weapons of mass destruction, but Russia predicted that Baghdad won’t consider admitting inspectors until patrols over Iraq’s “no-fly” zones stop.

In a preview of the diplomatic maneuvering and debate ahead, Russian Ambassador Sergei V. Lavrov said a second condition for the inspectors’ return should be the cessation of the Clinton administration’s efforts to overthrow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

“If the unilateral actions continue, then I don’t believe the atmospherics would be right for any hope of success,” Lavrov said.

He was referring to U.S. and British patrols to protect Kurds in Iraq’s north and Shiite Muslim dissidents in the south from the Hussein regime and White House support of the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of exile groups calling for Hussein’s ouster.

British Ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, commenting on the conditions Lavrov laid out, said the action by U.S. and British warplanes patrolling the zones is justified and “is only responsive.” He said that in the past 16 months, Iraq has fired on or taken offensive action against the aircraft 650 times.

Federal Trade Commission Approves $27.8 Billion Arco, Amoco Merger

LOS ANGELES TIMES

It’s taken more than a year to make it down the aisle, but on Thursday Atlantic Richfield Co. and BP Amoco cleared the last impediments to their proposed $27.8-billion marriage.

The Federal Trade Commission gave its blessing to the matchup after considering proposed asset sales by BP Amoco. In addition, an agreement was reached Thursday to settle a nagging lawsuit filed by Exxon Mobil Corp. over one of those deals -- the sale of Arco’s Alaskan operations -- that could have delayed the merger.

When the deal closes at midnight Monday, it will bring a measure of closure for all concerned. For BP Amoco, the Arco acquisition will bring a collection of lucrative refining and gas station assets in the West, strengthen its oil and natural gas production and boost the market capitalization of the world’s third-largest publicly traded oil company to $200 billion. And analysts bet that BP Amoco has not finished its buying spree.

And for Arco and its 16,600 employees, the FTC’s approval promises an end to the maddening limbo they have endured for nearly 13 months. The oil giant has said that 2,000 jobs would be eliminated, primarily in Southern California and Texas.

Peru Faces Presidential Runoff

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- LIMA, PERU

On the morning after protesters took to the streets in an impressive defense of democracy, Peruvians prepared Thursday for the biggest showdown of President Alberto Fujimori’s 10 years in power: an election pitting Fujimori against challenger Alejandro Toledo.

Peru awoke to a new reality, a sense of history in the making. A three-day crisis sparked by alleged foul play in Sunday’s presidential election had culminated Wednesday in the government’s announcement that Fujimori had not won enough votes for a first-round victory. It was a potentially decisive setback for the 61-year-old president.

Toledo supporters exulted that they had reaffirmed, if not saved, Peruvian democracy. Fujimori partisans denounced the international community for interfering in the country’s affairs by demanding a second round, which is expected in six weeks. Despite verbal violence, however, both sides appeared relieved the crisis was resolved.

The government rejects the mounting allegations of fraud, but many Peruvians believe that Fujimori had it within his power to declare victory. They credit him with a wise tactical retreat.