World briefs 3/14

Thursday, March 14, 2002

House GOP budget would increase defense

WASHINGTON -- Republicans muscled a $2.12 trillion budget for 2003 toward House Budget Committee approval on Wednesday following President Bush's lead in bolstering defense and domestic security while cutting other programs.

The election-year budget is the first lawmakers have crafted since the recession and war on terrorism began and four straight annual surpluses melted into deficits. Eager to blunt campaign-season attacks by Democrats, Republicans proposed more resources than Bush for debt reduction, prescription drug benefits, road building and education, and less than the president for tax cuts.

The plan envisions deficits of $66 billion this year and $46 billion next, which Republicans blamed on the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. But by proposing cuts in transportation and environment and holding other programs at current levels, they projected surpluses of $8 billion in 2004 and more thereafter.

Justice, SEC investigate auditing firm's practices

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission are working on separate goals, but their dealings with former Enron auditor Arthur Andersen will affect both.

Justice Department prosecutors have been negotiating with Andersen representatives over the past week to 10 days and repeatedly have threatened the big accounting firm with indictment for destroying documents in the Enron case, sources said.

One possible outcome would be for Andersen to plead guilty to obstruction of justice for the shredding of Enron-related documents at Andersen's Houston office last fall.

Yet that could bar Andersen from performing audits and approving financial reports that companies file with the SEC, the core of its business -- unless Andersen were granted a waiver.

Indian court bars Hindu prayer near mosque

NEW DELHI, India -- India's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Hindu nationalists could not hold prayers near the site of a razed mosque, a flashpoint in the religious violence that recently claimed 700 lives.

But a Hindu fundamentalist leader said he would go ahead with the ceremony Friday in the northern city of Ayodhya, setting up a possible showdown between his followers and security forces.

The government has sent 12,000 police and paramilitary troops to the area, saying it will enforce the court decision.

Russian: Terrorists linked to al-Qaida in Georgia

WASHINGTON -- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Wednesday his country will not ignore international terrorists who have infiltrated neighboring Georgia.

He said they are linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network and are "full of new plans for terrorist operations."

At a news conference with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Ivanov said the terrorists had trained in Afghanistan, "committed terrible crimes" in the Russian breakaway province of Chechnya, and were in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge.

-- From wire reports

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