U.S. Seeks Immunity

On Manatee Injuries

The Bush administration wants to immunize the government from lawsuits for the next five years when endangered Florida manatees are unintentionally injured or killed in collisions with government watercraft, docks, boat ramps and marinas.

Sam Hamilton, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Southeast regional director, said yesterday that current regulations under the Marine Mammal Protection Act "expose government agencies to potential liability" when manatees are inadvertently harmed.

The agency says the proposed regulatory change would apply to northwest Florida counties along the Gulf of Mexico, the upper St. Johns River and the Atlantic coast. Six hearings on the proposal will be scheduled next month in affected communities.

In the proposal, the Fish and Wildlife Service said it also intends stricter enforcement of speed zones in the Atlantic. The government would still be liable for unintentional harm to manatees in southwestern Florida counties along the gulf coast, where the manatee population is considered to be under greater threat.

The proposed regulatory changes were issued as U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington again threatened to hold Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton in contempt because she did not meet a Nov. 1 deadline for publishing them.

Troops' Smallpox Vaccine

Plan Awaits Bush Approval

The Pentagon has completed its plan for vaccinating U.S. troops against smallpox, and is awaiting White House approval before giving the first shots, a senior defense official said.

With the looming possibility of war in Iraq, the Pentagon is pushing to provide every available form of protection for troops who might be exposed to germ weapons. U.S. officials said this week that they believe Iraq is among four nations that have unauthorized samples of smallpox; the others are Russia, North Korea and France.

U.S., Britain Say Ukraine

Hinders Arms Sale Probe

U.S. and British investigators could not get an explanation from Ukrainian officials about the reported approval by Ukraine President Leonid Kuchma of the transfer of a radar system to Iraq, the State Department said.

Spokesman Richard Boucher expressed disappointment with the level of cooperation that Ukrainian officials provided the U.S.-British team that visited last month.

Any transfer of a radar system to Iraq would violate U.N. sanctions against Iraq. Ukrainian officials have denied any sale was made. Kuchma has denied approving one.

As evidence of Kuchma's role, the State Department said it verified the authenticity of a recording in which Kuchma allegedly is heard approving the $100 million sale.

Boucher said the fact-finding team concluded that Ukraine's export control process lacks sufficient safeguards to prevent senior officials or entities from misusing state organs or bypassing export controls.

-- Compiled from reports by the Associated Press