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web posted June 5, 2000

Babbitt asks Clinton to name four more monuments in the West

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt wants President Clinton to declare four new national monuments protecting more than 500,000 acres of federal land in Washington state, Oregon, Colorado and Arizona.

If Clinton approves the request as expected he will have used the Antiquities Act to protect nearly 3.7 million acres -- the second most by a U.S. president.

"These are priceless natural landscapes that have somehow remained almost untouched by exploitation, development and urban sprawl," Babbitt said May 31 in a statement.

"Each of the areas recommended today represents an exceptional, irreplaceable piece of America's natural and cultural heritage," Clinton responded, also in a written statement.

"This is not what the Antiquities Act was intended for," complained Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. "It was not designed for the creation of another Yellowstone."

The same day of Babbitt's letter, Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush criticized the Clinton administration for designating state land for national monuments without close consultation with state officials.

The largest of the sites in Babbitt's latest recommendation, The Hanford Reach National Monument in Washington -- would protect 200,000 acres along 51 miles of the Columbia River that is one of the largest, undisturbed river stretches in the United States and a spawning ground for salmon.

The other three monuments requested by Babbitt:

  • Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, 164,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land in Colorado that contains more than 20,000 archaeological sites -- the highest known density of such sites in the nation. The site's remoteness has helped protect it, but growing population and tourism requires more protection, Interior officials said.
  • Ironwood Forest National Monument in Arizona, 134,750 acres of BLM land, includes stands of ironwood trees that can live more than 800 years, along with blue palo verde and saguaro blanket stands. The area needs protection because of urban expansion in the southern part of the state, officials said.
  • Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in Oregon, 52,000 acres of BLM land, including Soda Mountain, is one of the most biologically diverse areas in North America, home to 100 species of butterflies, eight species of bats and old growth habitat important for the threatened northern spotted owl.

The 1906 Antiquities Act allows presidents -- without congressional approval -- to safeguard objects of historic and scientific interest. President Theodore Roosevelt used the law to set aside the Grand Canyon in 1908 and President Carter used it to create large sections of Alaska wilderness in the 1970s.

If he approves Babbitt's request, Clinton will have used the Act to declare or expand 10 monuments during his presidency. Only Carter has used the Act to protect more acreage, as he set aside 50 million acres in Alaska alone.

Court rules against Elian asylum hearing

A federal appeals court ruled June 1 that Elian Gonzalez is not entitled to a hearing for political asylum in the United States. Still, it could be months before the long legal fight over custody of the 6-year-old boy is settled.

The ruling by the three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, a victory for Elian's father and defeat for his Miami relatives, means that Elian's father could take the boy back to Cuba. But further court appeals will likely delay that.

The Miami relatives have 14 days to appeal, during which Elian must remain in the United States. The relatives may ask the 12 judges of the 11th Circuit, rather than the three-judge panel that made the ruling, to hear the case or they may appeal directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A temporary injunction allows the boy to remain in the United States; whether that will be lifted remains unclear.

If the Miami relatives decide to take the case to the Supreme Court, and if the high court decides to hear it, the issue may not be resolved for many months. If it hasn't been decided by November 26, Elian will have been in the United States for a year and one day, making him eligible for a permanent residency card, or "green card," under the Cuban Adjustment Act.

That legislation gives green cards to Cubans who have been "inspected, admitted or paroled to the United States and live here at least one year," said Dale Schwartz, an immigration attorney in Atlanta and former president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

"This kid could be out of college before this thing is resolved," Schwartz said.

U.N. prosecutor finds no evidence of NATO war crimes in Yugoslavia

The chief U.N. war crimes prosecutor announced June 2 that there is no basis for an investigation into allegations that NATO committed war crimes during last year's bombing of Yugoslavia.

In a speech to the U.N. Security Council, Carla del Ponte said she had no evidence of any deliberate bombing of civilians during the NATO campaign.

"Although some mistakes were made by NATO, I am satisfied there was no deliberate targeting of civilians or any unlawful military targets during the NATO campaign," she told council members.

NATO Secretary-General Lord Robertson applauded the decision, saying it came as no surprise since the alliance acted in accordance with international law.

The decision "should help ensure that the world's attention is focused exactly where it belongs -- on bringing the real war criminals of the Balkans to face justice in The Hague," Robertson said in a statement.

Del Ponte criticized the Serbian government for not allowing her investigators into Kosovo to check into its claims of war crimes against Kosovar Serbs, and for denying her a visit to visit Belgrade.

When allegations were made that the U.N. tribunal was anti-Serb and that there was an imbalance in the indictments issued, "the fact that I am unable to gain access to the victims and evidence makes such allegations rather hollow," she said.

Since last year's 78-day air campaign, lawyers working on behalf of Yugoslavia and a separate Russian parliamentary commission have given prosecutors complaints and evidence they say supports their charge that NATO forces committed war crimes.

The allegations included the strike against a bridge as a passenger train was crossing it, the bombing of a refugee convoy near Djakovica, and the targeting of the Serbian television building in Belgrade.

Del Ponte told council ambassadors that the tribunal had conducted a thorough examination of all the facts and evidence presented, as well as a detailed legal analysis and concluded "there is no basis for opening an investigation into any of these allegations or into other incidents related to the NATO bombing."

The decision is likely to further damage relations between the tribunal and Yugoslavia, which has accused U.N. prosecutors of bias and essentially cut off all cooperation with them.

Deputy Russian Ambassador Gennadi Gatilov backed the Yugoslav position, saying del Ponte's decision to terminate any investigation was premature. Gatilov mounted a stinging attack on the tribunal, accusing it of being "politicized" and biased against the Serbs -- a charge del Ponte said she was "stupified" to even hear.

"I completely reject that accusation," del Ponte said, adding that she had consistently sought meetings with the Russians to explain the work of the court and had been ignored.

David Scheffer, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes, applauded del Ponte's decision, adding the investigators were "bending over backwards to be as fair and equitable as possible with respect to such allegations."

Liberal Party endorses Hillary for the Senate...no kidding

Calling her the "quintessential New Yorker," leaders and members of the state's Liberal Party endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton on June 3 as a candidate for the United States Senate.

"What is, as the song says, a native New Yorker?," asked Martin Begun, vice president of the Liberal Party. "Being a New Yorker is a matter of spirit, not a matter of origin ... New York has always embraced newcomers."

Clinton said she was honored and very grateful for the nomination, and she thanked the party for "believing in her candidacy.

"This will be a tough and invigorating campaign and I am looking forward to every day of it," she said.

Clinton said although she and her Republican opponent, Rep. Rick Lazio, seem to share the same rhetoric, they do not share the same record. She said one of her goals is to improve the conditions in schools around the state, while Lazio voted against school construction.

She said Lazio will cut off funds for abortions for poor women and also opposes licensing and registration of hand guns.

"Now those are the wrong choices. I am proud to stand with you for the right choices," she said.

Clinton also announced that she would not be attending the Independence Party Convention on June 5 because she did not want to run on the same line with Patrick Buchanan. She said she did not see how she could represent New York State, with all its diversity, and be aligned with Buchanan and "his history of anti-semitic and divisive, and intolerant comments."

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