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A joint strategy for the US and Saudi Arabia to step up pressure on Israeli and Palestinian leaders, respectively, to end Middle East violence won backing from congressional leaders. After a briefing from President Bush Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R) of Mississippi said, "The president didn't put it in exactly that language, but that's clearly where we're headed." House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D) of Missouri told CNN, "We need the help of the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians." Above, Lott (left) and Gephardt (right), emerge from the White House session along with other congressional leaders. (Related stories, pages 1, 6.)

A wide-ranging federal complaint charges an Islamic charity and its director with perjury for allegedly lying about close ties to Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network. Benevolence International Foundation of Palos Hills, Ill., is one of two charities whose assets were frozen by the federal government in December and the first to face criminal charges in the counterterrorism war. Its executive director, Enaam Arnout, was arrested Tuesday and ordered held for a hearing May 7. Arnout's lawyer said his client neither engaged in nor supports terrorist activities.

In related developments:

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• A New York federal judge ruled the government's practice of jailing material witnesses for its inquiry into the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks unconstitutional. The case involved Jordanian college student Osama Awadallah, held for 83 days and charged with lying about knowing two of the Sept. 11 hijackers. Attorney General Ashcroft dismissed the decision as "an anomaly" and said the detentions are "fully consistent with the law."

• Mohamed Hussein, a Somali national, was convicted in Boston of operating a money-transfer business that sent funds abroad without a state license. Investigators allege that Al Qaeda skims money from such outlets, which send millions overseas each year.

Hawaii appears likely to become the first state to impose a cap on gasoline prices. A measure supported by Gov. Benjamin Cayetano (D) is expected to pass by a narrow margin when legislators vote on it today. Critics call it an election-year tactic that may please consumers but will hurt small, independent gas stations. The vote comes as Congress is holding hearings on rising gas prices nationwide.

A series of explosions touched off a fire at a chemical plant in Pearland, Texas, prompting the evacuation of 100 people. Authorities advised remaining residents to stay indoors, noting that petroleum products, oil, and brake fluid were stored in tanks at Third Coast Packaging.

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