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`EMERGENCY AID’ BILL PLODS ON

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President Bush's aid requests for Nicaragua and Panama are surviving unscathed in a $3.4 billion spending bill, and the measure plodded forward Friday as senators dealt with a long list of proposed amendments.

The "dire emergency" money bill contained $420 million to help rebuild Panama's economy and $300 million to help the new democratic administration of Violeta Chamorro, sworn in Wednesday as president of Nicaragua."Mrs. Chamorro's term may expire before we get the aid down there," Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan., cracked as he surveyed a list late Thursday of dozens of amendments that senators sought to add to the bill.

Along with the aid Bush is seeking to shore up the fledgling Central American democracies, the bill has become larded with a long list of pet spending projects of lawmakers, pushing it to nearly four times the original White House request.

Senators Friday adopted an amendment by Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., calling for a study of how foreign aid can be used to promote the fortunes of American businesses overseas. It then turned its attention to a list of proposed amendments that included sanctions on Iraq and relief for Lithuania.