USA

Although France is likely to veto it, the Bush administration is "in striking distance" of the nine votes needed to pass a UN Security Council resolution to authorize military force against Iraq, Secretary of State Powell told "Fox News Sunday." In a separate TV appearance, Powell said on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the window for a diplomatic solution "is closing rapidly." Reinforcing perceptions that a war could come within weeks, President Bush said US forces "are prepared, if necessary, to remove a gathering danger" during a speech Saturday to an annual gathering of Washington journalists.

Antiwar rallies in Washington and Los Angeles drew several thousand people Saturday. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker was among 25 protesters arrested near the White House at a demonstration organized by CodePink whose name refers to the color-coded federal terror alert level. Scattered counterdemonstrations were held elsewhere around the US.

The CIA suspects that Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq plan to target US troops during or following any invasion, The New York Times reported. It said senior administration officials were told in a recent intelligence briefing that Al Qaeda-linked cells in Baghdad and in northern Iraq, where the government has little control, are plotting independent attacks using explosives and unspecified toxins.

Eleven people were shot or stabbed during a brawl at a nightclub in New York's Times Square early Sunday. At least two others were trampled as patrons scrambled to exit the club. Police said none of the injuries appeared life-threatening.

Most Broadway musicals were silent after unionized musicians went on strike Friday and actors and stagehands refused to cross picket lines. The job action cancelled weekend performances of 18 shows, including "The Producers" and "The Lion King," and raised concerns of a trickle-down impact on New York's hotels and restaurants. The main sticking point in negotiations with producers is musician demands for a minimum number of players per show amid increased use of digital music technology.

"Bowling for Columbine," director Michael Moore's antigun documentary, won best original screenplay, and "The Hours," was named best adapted screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards Saturday in Los Angeles. The NBC series "Frasier" won the award for episodic comedy.

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