VIENNA, Austria

OPEC to cut oil output; gas prices may rise

With fuel costs already at uncomfortable levels for consumers,
OPEC took a step that could push prices even higher by announcing
yesterday that it would cut its crude-oil production target by 4
percent.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries hopes the cut,
which takes effect today, will prevent a slide in prices this
spring, when the global demand for oil usually slips to a seasonal
low.

Some analysts said the cut could soon push crude prices above
the psychologically important threshold of $40 per barrel, though
futures markets fell yesterday. The decision could also worsen the
pain for U.S. motorists, who have been paying the highest prices in
recent years for gasoline.

OPEC, which pumps about a third of the world’s oil, agreed
in talks at its headquarters in Vienna to reduce its output target
by 1 million barrels per day. Although it had announced plans for
the cut when its members met last month in Algiers, Algeria, a
subsequent surge in prices led a few of the group’s 11
members to suggest postponing the decrease.

Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates proposed postponing the
cut.

WASHINGTON

Rice’s credibility key to commission inquiry

When she testifies before the commission reviewing the Sept. 11
attacks, Condoleezza Rice will face pointed questions about what
outgoing Clinton administration officials told her about terrorism
— and how urgently the new Bush administration regarded
al-Qaida’s threat.

She also may face questions about her credibility.

“We want to hear from Dr. Rice … (about) the kind
of threats and dangers that were apparent to her before
9-11,” said Thomas Kean, the Republican chairman of the Sept.
11 commission and a former New Jersey governor.

“We want to talk about the day of (Sept. 11) and the
immediate response of the White House. We want to understand what
substantive differences there are, perhaps in testimony between Dr.
Rice and any other witnesses,” he said.

In a reversal, the White House agreed Tuesday to allow Rice to
testify publicly and under oath before the 10-member panel as early
as next week. The administration previously had insisted she meet
privately with the commission, citing constitutional concerns, but
eventually bowed to public pressure.

JERUSALEM

Orthodox Jews stake east Jerusalem claim

Ultra-Orthodox Jews armed with assault rifles lugged boxes,
sofas and potted plants into two buildings in a crowded Arab
neighborhood of Jerusalem at daybreak yesterday, sparking clashes
between Israeli troops and residents.

Israeli officials said the group had the right to live in the
buildings in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed after capturing
it in the 1967 Mideast War.

Palestinian officials said the incident proved Israel was less
interested in peace than in tightening its grasp on east Jerusalem,
which they want for the capital of a future state.

Later yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon defended
his plan to unilaterally withdraw from most or all of the Gaza
Strip and parts of the West Bank. A day earlier, he agreed to a
binding referendum among his rebellious Likud Party members on the
“disengagement” plan.

MADISON, Wis.

Missing student found alive in marsh

A missing University of Wisconsin student was found alive
yesterday in a marsh, four days after she vanished from her nearby
apartment with no coat or purse.

Police gave no details on what happened to Audrey Seiler,
including whether she was abducted. Seiler, 20, had
non-life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital, Officer
Larry Kamholz said.

Police with weapons drawn were seen walking through the parking
lot of a building near the marsh, authorities said.

Kamholz said Seiler was found after an employee at a nearby
office building called police to report what she thought was a body
in the marsh less than two miles from Seiler’s off-campus
apartment.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands

World court orders U.S. death row review

The world court ordered the United States yesterday to review
the death penalty cases of 51 Mexicans, including one scheduled to
die May 18 in Oklahoma, saying their right to consular assistance
was violated.

The ruling by the International Court of Justice could mean a
reprieve or chance of appeal for dozens of Mexican prisoners. It
also could have implications for other foreign citizens in U.S.
prisons who were not told they could receive help from their
governments.

The State Department has not responded to the ruling. Officials
in Oklahoma and Texas, where three of the Mexican inmates are on
death row, said no immediate action was being taken.

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