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U.S. Y2K Adviser Terms Glitch Chronic
By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton's chief adviser on the Year 2000 technology glitch warned the nation Thursday that Jan. 1 would not mark the end of Y2K-related concerns.

At the same time, a working group led by the Treasury Department voiced concerns about the Y2K readiness of key public and private institutions and the infrastructure of many countries including China, India, Russia.

The President's Working Group on Financial Markets cited concerns about small- to medium-sized enterprises worldwide, including in the United States, and about ``the financial sector in several small European markets'' that it did not name.

``One risk is the potential for a 'domino' systemic effect brought about by significant disruptions to these groups because of the Y2K rollover,'' said the working group, which consists of the Treasury, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Many of the countries that are least prepared for the Year 2000 are important energy exporters, said the report, prepared at the request of Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Commerce Committee.

Energy Exporters Threatened

``Any significant disruptions from the century date changeover that impact (the energy) industry locally could have a negative impact on the U.S. and global economies,'' the report said.

It cited Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria, Algeria, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Nigeria, Angola, and Colombia as among energy exporters that ``may experience disruptions tied to Year 2000.''

John Koskinen, Clinton's Y2K czar, told Congress that one of the most troubling Y2K myths ``is the notion that January 1 is a seminal date on which everything, or nothing, Y2K-related will occur.''

In testimony to a joint hearing of House of Representatives subcommittees, Koskinen said Y2K problems ``can happen any time a computer that is not Y2K-compliant comes into contact with a Year 2000 date -- before or after January 1.''

Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 conversion, said experts would have to monitor automated systems ``well into the new year for flaws in billing and financial cycles and possible slow degradations in service.''

``So I think it is important for the public to know that January 1 is just one of the important dates in the life of the Y2K issue,'' he said.

Koskinen said basic U.S. infrastructure was ready for Jan. 1, when unprepared computers could crash if they misread the last two zeros in the date field and mistake 2000 for 1900.

U.S. Perfection Impossible

But not every system will be fixed in time, ``and no amount of testing can ensure perfection,'' he said. He noted that a few federal agencies encountered glitches -- even in systems that had been fixed and tested -- when fiscal 2000 began on Oct. 1.

``We also expect failures in sectors where large numbers of organizations were late in starting or, even more troubling, are taking a wait-and-see approach,'' Koskinen said.

In separate testimony before the House panels, J. Patrick Campbell, chief operating officer of the Nasdaq stock market, disclosed plans for a public relations blitz designed to prevent any panic sell-offs as 2000 approaches.

The securities industry is taking out ads in major daily newspapers -- including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times -- in the next few weeks to ``separate Y2K fact from fiction,'' he said.

The text of the ad call on investors to ``stay invested for the long term,'' adding: ``We believe the market will continue to reward prudent investors with the patience to stick to sound investments over time.'' 

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