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News Briefs

Annan Calls for West Bank Peacekeeping Force

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- UNITED NATIONS

Despite U.S. and Israeli opposition, secretary-general Kofi A. Annan SM ’72 on Thursday urged the U.N. Security Council to dispatch a large multinational force to the West Bank to guard aid deliveries, provide security during the rebuilding of devastated Palestinian areas and monitor an eventual cease-fire.

U.S. officials have said they oppose the introduction of outside forces so long as Israel objects -- and Israeli officials here reiterated their opposition Thursday.

For practical and political reasons, most council members concede, a Middle East peacekeeping force would require strong U.S. diplomatic backing and probably logistical support. The United States, with its veto power on the council, retains control over any such decision.

Yet Annan, described by aides as deeply disturbed by the council’s seeming inability to brake the violence and emboldened by European and Arab calls for direct international intervention in the region, decided to press ahead with his proposal despite U.S. opposition.

“He knows he is going out on a limb with this,” said a diplomat from a European member of the Security Council.

Senate Kills ANWR Drilling Bill

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Senate on Thursday blocked oil and gas drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, handing President Bush a key defeat and putting in doubt the future of comprehensive energy legislation.

In the closely watched roll call, pro-exploration forces fell well short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a Democratic-led filibuster against the drilling plan. Only 46 senators voted to end the debate, while 54 opposed the motion.

Drilling advocates had hoped to win at least 50 votes. Their failure to achieve that goal increased already steep odds against the proposal being part of any final energy bill.

Still, neither side in the dispute thought the vote would end the decades-long debate on whether to open a portion of the 19 million acre refuge in Alaska’s northeast corner to drilling.

Foes of the drilling say it would endanger one of the nation’s most precious wildlife habitats, and they exulted in their victory.

“Development would irreversibly damage this natural resource,” said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., a leader of the filibuster.

Andersen Settlement Talks Dead

THE WASHINGTON POST -- WASHINGTON

Settlement talks between Arthur Andersen and the Justice Department broke off Thursday, with the firm refusing a deal that would have deferred an obstruction of justice prosecution.

Justice Department Enron task force chief Leslie Caldwell, who had set a deadline of Wednesday for reaching a settlement agreement, withdrew the department’s offer Thursday morning after Andersen lawyers said they were not in a position to accept it on the partners’ behalf. The Andersen lawyers unsuccessfully sought to have the offer extended indefinitely.

“We just agreed that we’re just not there right now,” said lead Andersen lawyer Rusty Hardin. “We rejected certain proposals by the government and agreed to continue to review other proposals of the government, but we could not complete that review within the time frame the government was demanding.”

Hardin refused to detail the areas of disagreement, saying he had hopes of reviving the talks before the firm’s trial May 6 in Houston. “You’re talking to someone who doesn’t want to close the door for the future,” he said.