USA

Israeli-Palestinian violence and Iraq are expected to be the focus when President Bush meets today with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas. Bush has endorsed the prince's proposal for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement and would like his support for the US counter-terrorism effort that may turn next to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Above, Abdullah (center) is greeted by officials on his arrival in Houston Tuesday.

Before traveling on to Texas, Bush attended to domestic concerns, meeting with farmers and visiting an ethanol plant in Wentworth, S.D. The president also was scheduled to take part in a GOP fund-raiser for US Rep. John Thule, (R) of South Dakota, who is challenging Sen. Tim Johnson (D) for his seat in November. Republicans have criticized the state's other senator, Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D), for holding up action on a farm bill by demanding higher price guarantees for corn – used in ethanol – and other provisions that would benefit farmers in his state.

Declaring "zero tolerance of security breaches" at US airports, Attorney General Ashcroft announced dozens of arrests at Dulles International and Ronald Reagan National airports Tuesday. Federal officials said they expect to detain at least 138 workers as part of Operation Tarmac, which has led to more than 450 arrests or indictments at 14 airports since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Most of those charged are illegal immigrants or lied about criminal records to get jobs with access to secure areas, officials said. None has been linked to terrorism.

Without saying why, US and Russian negotiators broke off nuclear-arms talks a day early, and the head of the US delegation, Undersecretary of State John Bolton, left Moscow. The meetings were the latest in a series aimed at reaching an arms-reduction deal before a May 23 summit between Presidents Bush and Putin.

Factory orders for big-ticket items such as cars and computers fell 0.6 percent in March, the Commerce Department reported. It was the first decline in orders for durable goods – expensive items meant to last three or more years – since November and a weaker performance than many Wall Street analysts had projected.

A signal-light malfunction may be to blame for a train crash that killed two people and injured 260 more in Placentia, Calif., National Transportation Safety Board chairwoman Marion Blakey said, noting that the investigation is in an early stage. A mile-long freight train struck a stopped Metrolink commuter train Tuesday in the second fatal rail accident in less than a week. Four people died in an Amtrak Auto Train derailment in Florida April 18. (Story, page 2.)

An Air Force veteran is being held on $1 million bond in a string of sexual assaults and burglaries in Fort Collins, Colo. Senior Airman Troy Graves is scheduled for a court hearing tomorrow. Last year, police said DNA evidence linked the same suspect to six attacks near Colorado State University. Philadelphia police reportedly are investigating possible links between those incidents and a series of rapes and one death in that city in the late 1990's.

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