News in World Media

Serbs holding GIs as prisoners

The three U.S. Army soldiers who disappeared during a reconnaissance mission near the Yugoslav-Macedonia border were captured by Serb forces and are being held as prisoners of war, Serbian TV reported Thursday. CNN said subsequently that NATO confirmed the soldiers' capture. The government-controlled station aired pictures that they say show the GIs, who appeared to have been beaten. The TV report said the men were injured while resisting arrest. The soldiers' names were reported as James Stone, Andrew Ramirez and Steve Gonzales. Meanwhile, a discrepancy has emerged over where the soldiers were captured - with NATO saying they were in Macedonia near the Yugoslav border and the Serbs saying they were across the border.

North, South Korean ships collide

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- About 34 North Koreans were reported missing after a South Korean container ship collided with a North Korean freighter on Wednesday.

The collision occurred between Sri Lanka and the Indonesian island of Sumatra.

A spokesman at South Korea's Hyundai Group said the North Korean ship, which was carrying cement, was believed to have sunk after colliding with Hyundai's container carrier, leaving most of the North Korean crew missing at sea.

The container ship, owned by the group's shipping unit, Hyundai Merchant Marine Co Ltd, rescued two of the North Korean crew, the spokesman said.

South Korea's national Yonhap news agency said 34 North Koreans were missing while two were rescued.

"At the moment, we don't know the exact situation there," said the spokesman.

Lewinsky Inquiry Cost More Than $6M

WASHINGTON (AP) Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr spent more than $6 million on the Monica Lewinsky scandal, and the overall investigation of President Clinton is becoming the most expensive in history, congressional auditors reported Wednesday.

The latest figures, for the six-month period ending Sept. 30, 1998, bring the total cost of Starr's 4 1/2 -year inquiry of the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton to nearly $40 million. Starr replaced Robert Fiske, who spent $6 million.

The most expensive independent counsel investigation to date was Lawrence Walsh's $48.5 million, six-year probe of the Reagan administration regarding its arms-for-hostages deals with Iran and its secret war against the communist-led government of Nicaragua.

Reports by the General Accounting Office, Congress' auditing and investigative arm, show that the cost of investigating top administration officials during the Clinton era now tops $76 million.

``The monumental effort required to conduct the investigation of Monica Lewinsky and others required unusual commitments of resources,'' said Elizabeth Ray, a spokeswoman for Starr's office.

``Our concerns about the exorbitant expense of the Independent Counsel's investigation are well known, but we'll let this latest report speak for itself,'' said White House spokesman Jim Kennedy.

Starr's expenditures totaled $6.2 million in the six months through last Sept. 30, up nearly 60 percent from the $3.9 million in the previous six months, said the GAO.

The latest GAO report does not cover costs for the first 2 1/2 months of Starr's investigation into the presidential affair and cover-up. Starr opened the Lewinsky investigation in mid-January 1998. The latest GAO figures start on April 1, 1998.

The GAO totals do not break out Starr's costs for other aspects of his investigation, such as the prosecutions of Clinton friend Webster Hubbell and Whitewater partner Susan McDougal. But those investigations pale in size and intensity to the Lewinsky case, which involved a massive grand jury inquiry that lasted seven months.

Starr wrapped up the Lewinsky investigation on Sept. 9, 1998, with a report to Congress detailing 11 possible grounds for impeaching the president for lying and obstruction.

The trial of Mrs. McDougal in Arkansas on contempt and obstruction charges is in its fourth week. Mrs. McDougal was investigated and indicted last May, a cost that would be included in the latest financial figures for Starr's operation.

Starr has two court cases pending against Hubbell, one for income tax evasion, the other for obstructing federal regulators looking into the failure of the savings and loan owned by the Clintons' Whitewater partners. Both those cases were in the investigative stage in the months covered by the latest expenditures.

Walsh, the former Iran-Contra prosecutor, said that Starr's costs will jump suddenly by many millions of dollars when he concludes his investigation. The reason: legal costs for witnesses drawn into Starr's investigation.

``I'm sure that Starr that will exceed me'' in costs ``before he's through,'' Walsh said.

Walsh pointed out that under the Independent Counsel Act, people who were subjects of Starr's investigation but who were never indicted are entitled to reimbursement from the government for legal costs.

Among the many people who may fit into that category are the president who was impeached, not indicted and Mrs. Clinton.

Independent counsels during the Clinton administration have investigated former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy, former Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt and Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

Kosovo Albanian leader 'alive and well'

A senior Kosovo Albanian political leader, Ibrahim Rugova, has given an interview at his home in Pristina, to dispel rumours that he had been killed or imprisoned.

Mr Rugova said he was living under the protection of the Serbian police.

Fears had been expressed for his safety after reports that a number of moderate Kosovo Albanian politicians and human rights workers had been rounded up.

Asked what he thought about the Nato bombing raids, aimed at forcing the Yugoslav leadership to accept the Kosovo peace plan signed by Mr Rugova and his colleagues, he said: "The bombing must stop. Everything should stop."

Mr Rugova did not expand on his remark.

The BBC's World Affairs Correspondent, Nick Childs, says it is not clear how these remarks are likely to be interpreted outside Kosovo, given the circumstances under which they were apparently made.

Nato governments have argued that there is overwhelming support for the air strikes amongst Kosovo Albanians.

Doubts over other 'dead'

Nato reported on Monday the execution by Belgrade of a number of other prominent Kosovo Albanians - including Fehmi Agani, a key adviser at the Rambouillet peace talks, and Baton Haxhiu, the Koha Ditore newspaper's editor-in-chief.

There is now uncertainty about their fate, after General Wesley Clark said there was no confirmation of Fehmi Agani's death, only reports from a number of sources.

Reuters news agency quotes unnamed US diplomatic and Kosovo Albanian sources saying they believe that the two men are alive.