In Washington, after months of delay and partisan bickering, the Senate voted yesterday to confirm Alexis Herman as labor secretary, filling out the final spot in President Clinton’s second-term Cabinet. The 85-to-13 vote came quickly after the White House agreed to drop plans for a labor-friendly executive order that many GOP senators opposed. The Republicans, led by Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles and backed by business groups, had vowed to block Herman’s nomination indefinitely unless Clinton backed down. The executive order would have required federal agency heads to consider using union-like labor agreements on all federally funded construction projects. Instead, Clinton said, he would issue an executive memorandum on the matter, which, according to White House officials, carries some of the same weight but would expire along with Clinton’s presidency.
After the most crucial election battle of his life, Gerry Adams, the political leader of the Sinn Féin, is widely expected to win a Northern Ireland seat in the British parliamentary election today. There are no independent polls, but virtually all experts, including diplomats and British and Irish Republic officials, say Adams will win the seat in predominantly Roman Catholic West Belfast that he lost five years ago to Dr. Joe Hedron, a mainstream Catholic nationalist who is running for re-election.
From Zaire, ailing dictator Mobutu Sese Seko and rebel leader Laurent Kabila prepare today for face-to-face talks at sea, with Kabila insisting the veteran strongman must stand down after three decades in power. Zairian officials said the meeting, initially planned for tomorrow, would take place on Saturday. The venue remains a South African navy ship in international waters off Africa. And as the Zairian government continues what appears to be a rapid disintegration, the U.S. State Department is showing increasing misgivings about Laurent Kabila, the rebel chieftain who aspires to be the country’s next leader. Spokesperson Nicholas Burns said yesterday that he lacks democratic credentials, and he noted that a series of abuses, including atrocities, have been committed against Rwandan refugees in territory controlled by Kabila’s forces. The U.S. government has yet to document and chronicle the abuses of the more than 30-year reign of the dictator they supported, Mobutu Sese Seko.
Rwanda’s government has accused the United States today of delaying the repatriation of Rwandan Hutu refugees from Zaire and said it was ready to work directly with rebel forces in Zaire to bring them back. The statement conflicted with U.N., European Union and U.S. expressions of concern this week about the treatment of the Hutu refugees by the Tutsi-dominated rebels and complaints about lack of cooperation with aid agencies.