News in Brief


Published April 4, 2001

U.S. stops short of apology to China


The Bush administration offered Beijing a chorus of regrets but no apology for the collision between a U.S. spy plane and a Chinese jet fighter. China, still detaining 24 American crew members, said it was a step in the right direction amid signs that both sides wanted a face-saving resolution.

President Bush, who issued a stern warning to Beijing a day earlier, had his advisers extend the olive branch yesterday.

"We regret the loss of life of that Chinese pilot but now we need to move on," Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "We need to bring this to a resolution and we"re using every avenue available to us to talk to the Chinese side to exchange explanations and move on."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer echoed Powell"s remarks, saying "we have expressed our concern and our regrets about that incident," but he declined China"s demand for an apology. In China, a similar regrets-but-no-apology formulation was offered to the nation"s foreign minister by the U.S. ambassador.

"The United States doesn"t understand the reason for an apology," Fleischer said. "Our airplanes are operating in international airspace, and the United States did nothing wrong."

House criticizes idea to drop Saturday mail


Lawmakers came down hard on the U.S. Postal Service"s plan to explore eliminating Saturday mail delivery, with one House member calling it a "fatal mistake" that could destroy the agency. "This is one of the most self-defeating proposals I"ve heard in my life," Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), said yesterday.

"If there"s one thing the Postal Service could do that would guarantee its demise, it"s eliminate service on Saturday."

Facing $2 billion to $3 billion in projected losses this year, the Postal Service has announced numerous cutbacks over the past months. On Tuesday, agency officials said they would investigate the possibility of ending virtually all Saturday mail delivery and closing some post offices and facilities. The changes would require congressional approval.

Postmaster General William J. Henderson told the House Government Reform Committee on yesterday that the poor economy and declining mail volume had hit the agency hard. He urged changes in the law to give the post office more flexibility in setting rates and services to contend with rising costs. It now takes almost a year to change rates.

Talks fail to produce end to violence

ATHENS, Greece

In their first high-level talks since Ariel Sharon took office as Israel"s prime minister, Palestinians and Israelis searched yesterday for a way to halt the latest surge in Mideast violence. But back home, the two sides traded mortar fire in the Gaza Strip.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and two senior Palestinian leaders, Nabil Shaath and Saeb Erekat, said the sides would renew security talks, which have repeatedly broken down during the more than six months of fighting.

"We are now trying to get out of an extremely difficult period," Peres said after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou.

In Israel, security officials met late yesterday for about two hours, said Mohammed Dahlan, a Palestinian security chief in Gaza. The exact location was undisclosed. A representative of the CIA took part, he said.

Senate chops Bush tax cut proposal


President Bush"s proposed 10-year, $1.6 trillion tax cut suffered a double body blow yesterday as the Senate tentatively sliced it by $450 billion and a crucial Republican senator threatened to oppose it as too costly.

White House officials and GOP leaders immediately launched an all-out effort to revive Bush"s cherished tax package. The pivotal lawmaker, moderate Sen. James Jeffords (R-Vt.) emerged from a meeting with other Republicans to say, "I think I have an agreement with them" in which education spending would be increased for the mentally and physically disabled.

Jeffords provided no details, and emphasized that nothing was final. Even so, the day"s events raised Democratic hopes that they would force Bush to make his tax plan smaller.

Tribunal demands trial for Milosevic

BELGRADE, Yugoslavia

The U.N. war crimes tribunal hardened its position yesterday on Slobodan Milosevic, demanding the former Yugoslav president be immediately surrendered for trial even as the European Union signaled he can first be prosecuted at home as long as he ultimately answers to the U.N. court.

The senior political adviser to the tribunal, Jean-Jacques Joris, said Yugoslavia "must comply and must transfer Mr. Milosevic."

"It must occur immediately," he told reporters at tribunal headquarters in The Hague, Netherlands.

A senior court official, Hans Holthuis, left for Belgrade on yesterday to meet with Yugoslav authorities "to clarify the steps that have to be taken to fulfill their legal obligations," the tribunal said in a statement.