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Clinton Urges 2000 Glitch Solution

President Clinton asked the nation's scientists to work toward a speedy solution to the the Year 2000 computer problem, calling the glitch the "most urgent challenge in history."

To aid their efforts, Mr. Clinton said Tuesday that his administration will propose legislation designed to promote sharing of "Y2K" information.

"It is a complex test that requires us all to come together," Mr. Clinton said in a speech before the National Academy of Sciences.

Called "Good Samaritan" legislation, the president's proposal would protect from legal liability those who provide a clearinghouse function by sharing Year 2000-related information. The proposed legislation would not, however, protect them from liability that might arise separately from actual Year 2000 computer failures in their computer systems or devices.

The Year 2000 problem will cause many computers that recognize only the last two digits of a year to fail or malfunction, because they will be unable to distinguish Jan. 1, 2000, from the same day a full century earlier.

Computer experts warn that when 2000 arrives, many countries could face widespread power outages, transportation foul-ups, and telecommunications failures because of confused computers.

The president said that the United States will contribute $12 million to support the World Bank's efforts to increase awareness of the Y2K problem in developing countries. The World Bank is holding 20 regional conferences on the problem.

Later this month, Mr. Clinton's Council on Year 2000 Conversion is due to kick off a national campaign for Y2K solutions to promote public and private sector action on the problem. The president created the council in February to coordinate the government's efforts to increase awareness of the problem and encourage action in public and private organizations.

Mr. Clinton announced other initiatives Tuesday, including an announcement that the Labor Department has established an information technology "job bank"on its World Wide Web site. The idea is to connect people who are working on solutions with employers who are in need of their services.

He also urged Russia Tuesday to carry through with the commitments on economic reform it made to qualify for an International Monetary Fund bailout package.

After intense negotiations in Moscow, the IMF announced on Monday that it would back a $22.6 billion bailout this year and in 1999 in exchange for a series of economic steps intended to stabilize Russia's acute financial crisis.