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Senate okays $7.4-billion in farm assistance

The Senate on Wednesday approved $7.4-billion in emergency aid for farmers hurt by depressed crop prices and brutal droughts, setting the stage for negotiations with the House.

The money was added by voice vote to the Agriculture Department spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Fiscal conservatives warned that Congress is sending the message that its generosity to farmers knows almost no bounds. The Senate measure would take more than half of next year's projected $14-billion budget surplus.

A House-Senate committee will negotiate the final bill.

Holbrooke moves closer

to Senate confirmation

WASHINGTON _ After 14 months, the last remaining obstacle to Senate confirmation of Richard Holbrooke as U.N. ambassador fell Wednesday as Iowa Republican Charles Grassley dropped his hold on the nomination and switched it to three other diplomatic appointments.

With other senators abandoning efforts to hold Holbrooke hostage for unrelated concessions by the Clinton administration, Grassley's action appeared to clear the way for Holbrooke's confirmation before Congress leaves this week.

Grassley said he had no more objection to these three than he did to Holbrooke.

He said he was using them to force the State Department to protect whistle blowers and reach a deal with Linda Shenwick, an employee who complained to Congress about mismanagement at the United Nations and was reassigned.

Liberians in U.S. may

lose protected status

The State Department said Wednesday that while Liberia continues to struggle from the effects of civil war, the West African nation is stable and it is recommending that the 1,000 to 1,500 Liberians granted special status return home by Sept. 28.

After civil war erupted in 1989, Liberians were granted temporary permission to live and work in the United States. The special immigration status was extended year after year, and many Liberians were able to begin new lives.

While the country is largely at peace, much of it is still without electricity and passable roads, and supplies remain short.

The Temporary Protected Status allows foreigners to stay in the United States if their home countries suffer political violence or natural disasters.

Liberians whose temporary protected status expires have the right to apply for political asylum.

Liberia's civil war ravaged the country from 1989 to 1996, leaving an estimated 200,000 people dead.

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