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Several key Jewish backers of Hillary Clinton say she should fight on, despite mounting pressure to quit her presidential bid.

“It’s plain that she’s been an incredible candidate with a lot of momentum,” Philadelphia attorney Mark Aronchick said, adding that “she’d be the one to win” in the electoral college.

Party opinion seemed to be shifting against Clinton following Tuesday’s primaries in Indiana and North Carolina, in which the New York senator and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) split the victories. The results seemed to make it virually impossible for Clinton to earn enough delegates to secure the nomination. Steve Grossman, a former Democratic National Committee chairman and one of Clinton’s top fund-raisers, acknowledged the electoral math is “difficult.” But he said the party should be focused on who has the best chance in November. “What I think is most important to superdelegates and voters is who can beat John McCain,” Grossman said. “That’s the ultimate goal, to change the occupant of the White House and not elect a successor to George Bush and continue many of those policies.” Like many Clinton supporters, Grossman insisted that some way had to be found to count the votes of Florida and Michigan, two states stripped of their delegates for violating party rules by scheduling primaries too early. Clinton won both states, though neither candidate campaigned there and Obama’s name was not even on the ballot in Michigan. Matthew Hilzik, a former party press secretary, challenged the view that the seemingly endless primary battle is harming the Democrats’ chances against McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee. “This has offered great benefit to the party,” Hilzik said. “You have incredible turnout, and a very significant increase in Democratic voter registration and participation in primaries and caucuses around the country. There has been real enthusiasm and excitement that has also translated into dollars for state parties.”

Restrictions on trade relations between the United States and Russia will be lifted only after Russia joins the World Trade Organization.

William Burns, the U.S. ambassador to Russia, told the radio station Echo of Moscow that Russia’s accession to the WTO would tip the scales in the U.S. Congress in favor of repealing the Jackson-Vanik amendment because U.S. companies would have an interest in seeing the amendment canceled. The Jackson-Vanik amendment, enacted in 1975, denied favored status to certain countries with non-market economies that restricted emigration rights, specifically the rights of Jewish intelligentsia to leave Russia without paying heavy fines. Russia has sought WTO membership for 15 years but the country’s human rights record, state control over key energy resources, intellectual property rights and restrictions on the activity of foreign companies have blocked its path. Burns said he hopes Russia’s WTO entry comes before the end of this year. President Bush sends a resolution to Congress each year asking to repeal the amendment. Former Russian President Vladimir Putin dispatched Jewish community leaders to Washington to lobby for lifting the amendment.

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