Beijing Talks Set On U.S. Reparations

A top State Department official will visit Beijing next week to discuss reparations for the victims of the May 7 NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, the department said last night.

State Department Legal Adviser David Andrews will follow up on a Clinton administration "offer of humanitarian payment" for the bombing victims and "discuss the issue of property damage" caused by the attack, a spokeswoman said.

She said she did not know how large the reparations offer would be.

Last month Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering traveled to Beijing to apologize for the bombing, in which three Chinese were killed and 20 injured, and detail the series of errors that Washington says led to the attack.

The bombing sparked days of violent anti-American protests in Beijing and other major Chinese cities. China also broke off talks on joining the World Trade Organization and froze military exchanges and a human rights dialogue with the United States.

After Pickering's visit, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said "the explanations by the U.S. side are not convincing." She repeated a demand that those responsible for the bombing be punished and said Beijing wanted compensation.

Puerto Rico Seeks End to Navy Shelling

Puerto Rico wants the Navy to stop shelling an outlying island where 9,000 people live, and the Pentagon has opened hearings to decide what to do about it.

The Navy contends Vieques Island is an Atlantic military training facility "of vital importance to our national defense policy and impacts Navy readiness."

But Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, the first witness Friday before a four-member special commission examining the Navy's use of the island and alternatives, said, "The issue is the impact that these exercises have on a community of U.S. citizens."

Navy officials are to present the service's position to the panel on July 23 after the completion of a separate review ordered by Navy Secretary Richard Danzig. The commission's recommendations to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen are due in six weeks.

The current crisis over the island was sparked by the April 19 death of a Puerto Rican security guard for the Navy, David Sanes Rodriguez, who was killed when two bombs dropped by an F-18 fighter missed their target within the Navy range.

About 30 protesters are occupying a live-fire area to demand that the Navy get out. The Navy imposed a moratorium on live-fire exercises on Vieques after the bombing accident.

The Navy says Sanes was the first casualty in more than 50 years of training exercises on the 51-square-mile island. The Navy controls about two-thirds of Vieques, which lies eight miles east of Puerto Rico.

Water Projects Backed For Low-Income Areas

Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman plans to announce on Monday $210 million in new loans and grants to help low-income and rural communities develop safer drinking water and adequate sewage systems.

The loans are intended to complement President Clinton's "New Markets" initiative aimed at spurring job growth and corporate investment in impoverished communities through a combination of tax credits and loan guarantees.

In an interview, Glickman said he was struck during Clinton's six-stop tour of low-income areas last week by the number of communities in Appalachia and elsewhere that have dirty water and bad plumbing.

"There is no way anyone will ever locate a business in an area that doesn't have clean water and working toilets," Glickman said.

The loans and grants are intended to help fund 100 water projects in 40 states, including $24 million for 12 projects in rural Appalachia.

For the Record

Cook sprouts or avoid eating them, the Food and Drug Administration warned Friday. It said that while raw alfalfa, clover and radish sprouts are good sources of nutrients, they also carry the risk of serious illness from salmonella and E. coli 0157 bacteria contamination. Nearly 200 cases have been reported this year.

The FDA issued a nationwide health warning yesterday about Sun Orchard Inc.'s unpasteurized orange juice products, citing a risk of salmonella poisoning. The company recalled its unpasteurized orange juice products last month, but the FDA said people still are being sickened. The juice was distributed to retail stores and restaurants under the following labels: Sun Orchard, Earls and Joey Tomato's, Viola, Trader Joe's, Aloha, Zupan, Markon, Sysco and Vareva.

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, ending a day and a half of testimony, asked U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth yesterday to limit court involvement in the repair of the trouble-plagued Indian trust fund program and to allow him to "get this problem nailed down and solved." With Babbitt's testimony, the government rested its defense in a class action lawsuit filed by Native Americans demanding that the courts take over the trust fund, overhaul its error-filled accounting system and make restitution to Indians who have lost money.

The Defense Protective Service, the special police force that protects the 280-acre Pentagon reservation, is beset with management problems, fuzzy lines of authority and low morale, according to a report from the Defense Department's inspector general. The Pentagon acknowledged the problems and said they have been corrected since the 265-officer protective service was studied in 1997.

CAPTION: Pedro Rossello of Puerto Rico addresses Pentagon panel on Friday.