Nations hesitate to go to war with Iraq

WASHINGTON

President Bush’s efforts at bringing allies around to the U.S. position on Iraq appeared to be unraveling yesterday, putting the administration in a difficult position ahead of a key U.N. report and debate.

Weapons inspectors were coming up empty. France and Germany were balking at moving toward war. Turkey was resisting having U.S. ground troops on its soil. Opposition was growing in Britain while polls showed the American public didn’t want to go to war in Iraq.

The administration was trying to lay the groundwork to make a strong case against Iraq when U.N. inspectors deliver their report on Monday to the Security Council. U.S. officials had seen the Jan. 27 report as a possible war decision point, but they’ve drawn opposition from allies who want the inspectors given more time to do their work.

“An extra delay is necessary,” French President Jacques Chirac asserted yesterday. France has hinted it might use its Security Council veto to block an Iraq war resolution. Germany also called for a delay.

In remarks yesterday in St. Louis that appeared directed at both Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and unconvinced allies, Bush declared, “Its time for us to hold the world to account and for Saddam to be held to account. … We must not be fooled by the ways of the past.”

Teen indicted for Virginia sniper killings

FAIRFAX, Va.

A grand jury indicted 17-year-old Lee Boyd Malvo on two counts of capital murder in last fall’s sniper shootings, setting the stage for a death penalty trial.

The indictment, issued Tuesday and made public yesterday, also includes one count of using a firearm in a murder. Both capital murder counts stem from the Oct. 14 slaying of FBI agent Linda Franklin.

The indictment officially marks the transfer of Malvo’s case to adult court. A juvenile court judge ruled last week that Malvo could be tried as an adult, making him eligible for the death penalty if convicted of capital murder.

His arraignment has not been scheduled.

Malvo and John Allen Muhammad, 42, are accused of killing 13 people and wounding five in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. They are being tried first in Virginia because its laws allow the best opportunities for the death penalty.

The grand jury granted Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Horan’s request for capital murder indictments under two statutes: one prohibiting the killing of more than one person in a three-year period, and an anti-terrorism law.

Activists speak out against abortions

WASHINGTON

Anti-abortion activists by the thousands marched with banners and placards in sub-freezing weather yesterday, buoyed by hopes that the new Republican-run Congress will curb the procedure.

President Bush, who already has promised to sign any bill which restricts late-term abortions, chose the 30th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision to declare the United States “must protect the lives of innocent children waiting to be born.”

Bush, who was in St. Louis to give a speech on his tax-cut plan, noted in a broadcast hookup that the gathering on the National Mall was near the memorial to Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence.

“The March for Life upholds the self-evident truth of that declaration – that all are created equal, and given the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he said.

Day marks anniversary of Daniel Pearl’s death

KARACHI, Pakistan

Scraps of refuse mix with chalky dust on the desolate dirt path where Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl spent the last tortured days of his life. It was in a concrete shed here that the killers videotaped his gruesome murder, and in the overgrown yard outside that the journalist’s dismembered remains were finally found.

Four people have been convicted in the American reporter’s kidnapping and murder, including the British-born militant who masterminded his abduction on Jan. 23, 2002.

Investigators in the case have uncovered a web of extremism, with operatives from several Pakistani groups and possibly Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network in on the plot. That mix is bad news for Pakistan, which has endured a series of attacks since its president threw his support behind the U.S.-led war on terrorism.

Rate of household stock purchases rising

WASHINGTON

Slightly more than half of U.S. households owned stock in 2001, compared with about a third only a decade earlier as the Wall Street boom of the 1990s pushed stock ownership to record levels.

The big rise in stock prices plus the longest economic expansion in history helped to boost family balance sheets, the Federal Reserve reported yesterday in the government’s most extensive look at wealth in the country.

The typical family’s net worth – the difference between household assets and liabilities – rose to $86,100 in 2001, a gain of 10.3 percent from 1998 after removing the effects of inflation.

Family incomes were up as well in 2001, with the median family – the midpoint for all families – earning $39,900, a gain of 9.6 percent from 1998.

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