USA

Adding to perceptions that he's nearing a decision on war with Iraq, President Bush planned to release intelligence data that show Saddam Hussein's troops moving into civilian neighborhoods, which would be used as shields in case of a US-led attack, spokesman Scott McClellan said. Bush was to present the data in a speech to religious broadcasters in Nashville, Tenn. Asked about reports that the US and Britain may give Hussein 48 hours to flee or face attack after Friday's report by UN weapons inspectors, McClellan said, "There are a lot of diplomatic efforts going on right now."

As jury selection was to begin, the director of a Muslim charity pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in federal court in Chicago. Enaam Arnaout admitted that his Benevolence International Foundation helped to buy uniforms for Muslim fighters in Chechnya and in Bosnia. In return, prosecutors dropped charges that the group, based in a Chicago suburb, helped to fund Al Qaeda.

Gasoline prices rose more than 11 cents a gallon in the past two weeks, according to industry analyst Trilby Lundberg. Her Lundberg Survey of 8,000 stations nationwide found the average price for self-serve regular to be $1.60, and $1.78 for premium grades. Venezuela's oil strike coupled with concerns of possible war with Iraq have driven crude oil prices up more than $8 a barrel in the past two months, Lundberg said.

Hazardous-materials crews were cleaning up after a train derailed in Tamaroa, Ill., prompting the evacuation of more than half of the town's 800 residents. Authorities said it may be a few days before all are allowed back home. Sixteen of the train's 100-plus cars jumped the tracks Sunday, and at least one leaked the chemical vinyl chloride and caught fire. There were no reports of injuries.

US Sen. Christopher Dodd (D) of Connecticut may soon join the ranks of candidates vying to challenge Bush in the 2004 presidential race. Citing Dodd's aides, Time magazine reported that the ex-Democratic Party chairman is seriously considering a run, with a decision expected within weeks.

A dry winter is not helping to alleviate droughts in Western states from Colorado to California, climatologists said. They warned that the snowpack, which supplies as much as 70 percent of surface water in the region, is only 60 percent to 80 percent of average. The El NiƱo weather phenomenon may help somewhat by causing a rainier-than-normal spring, scientists say.

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