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MIDEAST UPDATE

* A default by Iraq on agriculture loans guaranteed by the Agriculture Department has forced the federal government to pay out millions of dollars to banks that loaned the money, an official said. Ten U.S. banks recently lodged claims totaling $599 million with the department’s Commodity Credit Corp., which guaranteed the loans to Iraq, said CCC Treasurer James Little. A total of $148 million had already been paid to claimants as of Feb. 22.

* AT&T; announced that, in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications of Kuwait, it would begin this weekend to link Kuwait with the rest of the world for the first time since Aug. 7, after Iraqi forces invaded.

* Three companies with contracts to snuff out hundreds of oil well fires in postwar Kuwait are being deluged with telephone calls from thousands of job applicants. But the companies say the firefighting teams that eventually will work in Kuwait have been formed for months and that they are not hiring.


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