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LEADING ECONOMIES LAG BEHIND FORECASTS

The world's leading economies are growing more slowly than forecast this year, but Japan is expected to buck the trend and the United States will hold its own, economists said Tuesday.

"The outlook looks solid and strong in the United States and there is no imminent danger from inflation," said Kumiharu Shigahara, chief economist for the 27-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development."Relatively speaking, the United States is in a happy situation."

Ministers of the Paris-based OECD, in two days of talks that began Tuesday, also are expected to discuss U.S. trade sanctions.

Key U.S. trading partners in the OECD have criticized a law that strengthened Washington's trade embargo against Cuba, first imposed against Fidel Castro's government in 1962.

Japan opposes U.S. plans to impose punitive import duties on $2 billion of Chinese goods starting June 17 because China has not done enough to stop unlicensed copying of U.S. movies, music and computer software.

U.S. officials said Monday they wouldn't budge.

"With respect to China, if the question is one of intellectual property rights, we have a bilateral agreement for its enforcement," said Jeffrey Lang, the deputy U.S. trade representative.

Backing off more optimistic predictions in December, the OECD slashed its 1996 growth estimate for the gross domestic product of Germany and Europe as a whole.

Stubborn unemployment and austerity measures in France and Germany have diminished prospects for Europe's overall growth this year. The economy is expected to grow by 1.6 percent instead of 2.6 percent.

OECD economists say France probably won't make a 1997 deadline to slash its budget deficit to 3 percent of gross domestic product and qualify to use the single European currency in 1999. The French government says it will meet targets.

Japan was another exception to the OECD's muted outlook. Analysts said its gross domestic product was expected to rise by 2.2 percent in 1996, higher than December's 2 percent estimate.

"We expect the recovery will gradually gain momentum in Japan," Shigahara said.