Bush asks for increased war spending

WASHINGTON

President Bush called yesterday for nearly $50 billion in additional military spending for the war on terrorism, the largest increase for the Pentagon in two decades.

Privately, he assured Republican and Democratic leaders that he has “no ambition whatsoever” to exploit the war on terrorism for political gain in this election year.

With his chief political strategist, Karl Rove, seated behind him in the Cabinet Room, Bush gave House and Senate leaders an update on the fight against terrorists and added: “I have no ambition whatsoever to use this as a political issue. There is no daylight between the executive and the legislative branches.”

No one in the room for the closed-door morning meeting responded, according to congressional and White House sources who related the scene to The Associated Press.

Rove had caused a stir among Democrats last week when he told a GOP conference that Republicans would do well to talk up the popular war in this year”s midterm elections.

In an afternoon address to the Reserve Officers Association, Bush gave the first details of the $2 trillion budget that he submits to Congress on Feb. 4.

U.S. forces seize Afghan warlord”s weapons

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

U.S. special forces and their Afghan allies confiscated thousands of weapons from a local warlord yesterday, officials said, as troops pressed the search for Taliban and al-Qaida renegades in southern Afghanistan.

At the U.S. military base outside Kandahar, the FBI director said members of Osama bin Laden”s terror network detained here have provided valuable information that has prevented new attacks against U.S. targets worldwide.

In the southern province of Helmand, anti-Taliban fighters and U.S. special forces searched house-to-house in four villages looking for al-Qaida and Taliban renegades, including the deposed Islamic militia”s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, according to Afghan sources.

The search turned up no trace of Omar, who refused to turn over bin Laden for his role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

However, special forces and their Afghan allies confiscated about 2,000 weapons ranging from small arms to heavy artillery, according to Khalid Pashtun, an aide to Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha.

Congress forcasts 2-year deficit

WASHINGTON

Projected federal surpluses over the next decade have plunged 71 percent from last year”s estimates and annual deficits are back for the next two years, says a new congressional forecast that heralds a budget squeeze sure to color this fall”s elections.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated yesterday a 10-year surplus of $1.6 trillion, a staggering $4 trillion less than the $5.6 trillion the office estimated only a year ago. Both projections by CBO, Congress” official budget analyst, are for 2002 through 2011, and assume no changes in current tax or spending programs.

Further dramatizing the worsening fiscal pressures faced by President Bush and Congress, CBO is now projecting one-year deficits of $21 billion this year and $14 billion in fiscal 2003, which starts Oct. 1.

Prison will decrease number of entrants

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba

The Pentagon said yesterday it was holding off sending more of the al-Qaida and Taliban figures to Cuba for security reasons. A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the makeshift prison is reaching capacity, and it could be easier for the captives to create problems if they were doubled up in cells while more are being built.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said President Bush is “perfectly satisfied” conditions at Guantanamo are humane and fair. Bush also believes that the detainees are linked to al-Qaida, “and if they were free they would engage in murder once again.”

The detainees are settling into a mundane routine of eating and praying in this tropical prison, broken by occasional showers and bouts of despair.

Identity theft tops FTC complaints

WASHINGTON

Identity theft was the leading consumer fraud complaint reported last year, far exceeding gripes about Internet auctions and services.

Of the 204,000 complaints compiled by the Federal Trade Commission, 42 percent involved identity theft, the agency said yesterday. The figures come from a government database that collects complaints from more than 50 law enforcement and consumer groups.

Other top consumer fraud complaints were problems with Internet auctions (10 percent), involving goods that were delivered late or not at all and items less valuable than advertised deceptive trial offers and charges from Internet and computer services (7 percent) and shop-at-home and catalog offers that failed to deliver or honor guarantees (6 percent).

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