USA

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to present his vision of a Middle East peace plan and to press for the exclusion of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat at a meeting today with President Bush. Sharon, who was to meet yesterday with Secretary of State Powell and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, is carrying a 100-page report that Israeli officials say links Arafat directly to terrorists. Palestinian officials maintain the documents are forgeries. Bush administration officials have signaled disappointment with Arafat's leadership of the Palestinian Authority, but have said that the US will push for reform, not a replacement. (Related stories, pages 1, 6.)

Bush traveled to Southfield, Mich. Monday, visiting the Detroit suburb to promote the education bill he signed in January. The trip came amid heightened security in the Midwest after a series of pipe-bomb attacks, and attempted attacks. More than a dozen devices were found in roadside mailboxes in Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois since Friday. An FBI official said that the bombs and notes found with them are nearly identical, and clearly came from the same person or persons.

The US is dropping out of a United Nations treaty setting up a permanent war crimes tribunal, Powell announced on ABC's "This Week" Sunday. The 1998 treaty has been approved by 66 nations. It was signed by ex-President Clinton, but never ratified by the Senate. Powell (above), said the current administration has no plans to pursue that, out of concern US military personnel and political leaders could face frivolous or politically motivated prosecution at the court, to be formed this summer.

Federal Reserve policymakers are expected to leave interest rates unchanged when they meet today for a review. Key rates are at a 40-year low. But amid concerns about the strength of the economic recovery – underscored by last month's rise in unemployment to a seven-year high of 6.0 percent – analysts don't anticipate the Federal Open Market Committee will raise rates again until August or perhaps later. (Related story, page 2.)

State investigators are looking into a prison fire in which eight inmates dead at Bakersville, N.C. The Mitchell County Jail, built in 1956, reportedly passed a safety inspection six months ago and was scheduled for a review today. Sheriff Ken Fox said the fire, which erupted Friday night, spread too quickly for jailers to release all 17 prisoners in time. The cause has yet to be determined.

Former Rep. Louis Wyman, (R) of New Hampshire, who died Sunday in West Palm Beach, Fla., was first elected to Congress in 1962, but was voted out two years later after opposing the Civil Rights Act. Reelected in 1966, he served four more terms. In 1974, he ran for the Senate, ultimately losing to John Durkin after a ballot result that was so close, a new election was called the following year.

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