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News Briefs

IMF Cuts Controversial Debt Plan


The International Monetary Fund, bowing to strenuous objections from banks and investors over its proposed “bankruptcy” system for indebted countries, unveiled a proposal Tuesday that omits one of the plan’s most controversial features.

The IMF dropped the mechanism that would block creditors from suing to recover their money for a certain period after a country has suspended payment on its debts.

That move marks a partial retreat from earlier proposals that were aimed at giving countries legal protections from creditors similar to those available to companies and individuals in the United States and many other nations. Although some experts said the IMF appears to be watering down its plan in significant ways, fund officials said they had concluded that these “standstill” provisions aren’t necessary because of other protections the plan provides to countries.

“It looks like a big change,” an IMF official said. “But it’s really just a refinement.”

The IMF surprised the financial world when its first deputy managing director, Anne Krueger, first announced in November 2001 that the fund’s management would back an international bankruptcy regime. One of the main motivations was to establish an alternative to the much-criticized rescues the IMF had launched during crises in Russia, Brazil and Argentina, which involved massive loans from the fund aimed at helping those nations avoid default.

Two Arab Legislators Appeal To Israeli Supreme Court


A pair of Arab legislators who were declared enemies of the state and banned from running for re-election appeared before Israel’s Supreme Court Tuesday to argue for the right to campaign.

Ahmed Tibi and Azmi Bishara were accused of supporting attacks against Israel and ousted from the elections, scheduled for Jan. 28. Their banishment set off a debate over free speech and discrimination in a nation that prides itself on its democratic rule.

Israel’s election committee said Bishara, a political philosopher at Birzeit University, had praised “popular resistance” during a speech in Syria. The Balad Party member was also accused of rallying Palestinians to use the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah as a model for uprising.

Based on those charges and secret evidence collected by Israeli intelligence, the prolific author was accused of inciting rebellion, and he and the rest of his party were banned from the elections. Tibi, of the Arab-Jewish Hadash Party, was banned on charges of supporting terrorist organizations.

Daschle Abandons Presidential Aspirations for 2004


Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota unexpectedly announced Tuesday he would not seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, stunning many supporters and potential rivals who had assumed his candidacy was assured.

Recently, Daschle had hinted strongly that he would join the growing field of Democrats seeking to unseat President Bush. One of his state’s leading newspapers even reported Tuesday on preparations for an announcement this weekend in Daschle’s hometown of Aberdeen.

Instead, the Democratic leader joined former Vice President Al Gore in choosing to sit the race out. Daschle declared that he would rather fight Bush from the Senate floor than from the presidential campaign trail.