President extends deadline on strike

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON President Clinton sent the baseball talks into extra innings Monday, extending his deadline for settling the strike an extra day before accepting a mediator's proposal.

The president hoped the additional time would allow players and owners to settle the six-month walkout themselves, but there appeared to be little chance of that.

Instead of talking about an agreement, players refiled their unfair labor practice charge against owners following the start of management's signing freeze.

''On this 100th anniversary of Babe Ruth's birth, the Babe would not be optimistic for any quick settlement right now,'' Labor Secretary Robert Reich said.

W.J. Usery, a former Labor Secretary appointed to mediate by Clinton last Oct. 14, said he would again try to cajole the sides into a voluntary solution.

''I refuse to be pessimistic,'' Usery said, ''although it is very difficult to seem to find a voluntary agreement between the parties.''

Usery has led the sides through six rounds of negotiations with little movement. He met separately with both sides Monday night, and union head Donald Fehr said the mediator will make ''suggestions'' before he presents the plan to Clinton.

''I think his desire is that there is something in there that will spur negotiations so he wouldn't go back to the White House,'' Fehr said.

''He didn't want to leave any stone unturned,'' Reich said, ''didn't want to really risk not thinking of and not giving both parties a full opportunity for resolving this dispute. The president agreed to wait until 3 o'clock tomorrow for former secretary Usery's final reports and recommendations.''

Neither side knew what Clinton would do if they rejected the plan. The president could propose special legislation to enact terms of a settlement or binding arbitration, but both types of bills would have to be approved by the House and Senate.

''Certainly from public comments by members of Congress, we sense that they share the president's sense of frustration that the strike has continued for too long,'' White House spokesman Mike McCurry said.

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