USA

The war in Iraq has cost more than $20 billion and is likely to consume that much again, or more, in the next five months, according to figures released by the Pentagon. Dov Zakheim, the Defense Department's comptroller, said Wednesday that military operations there to date have cost between $10 billion and $12 billion. In addition, personnel costs have amounted to at least $6 billion, while more than $3 billion has been spent on munitions. Up to $7 billion will be needed for returning US troops from the Persian Gulf to their home bases.

In a move that may further strain transatlantic ties, President Bush called for lifting economic sanctions against Iraq. "Now that Iraq is liberated, the United Nations should lift economic sanctions on that country," Bush said Wednesday during a visit to a fighter jet plant in St. Louis. Analysts say the removal of sanctions, particularly on oil sales, could help finance the reconstruction of Iraq. But key UN Security Council members say they want a much better idea of what the UN's role in Iraq will be before agreeing to any suspension or lifting of sanctions.

Michigan State University president Peter McPherson appeared to be the administration's point man on financial matters related to the rebuilding of Iraq. An unidentified government official said McPherson would serve as a liaison between the Treasury Department and military officials on the project.

Prosecutors added to the list of charges against WorldCom's ex-financial officer. An indictment unsealed in federal court in Manhattan accuses Scott Sullivan of using false financial statements to secure $4.2 billion in loans for the telecommunications company, and bank fraud. WorldCom subsequently became the largest bankruptcy in US corporate history. Sullivan is free on $10 million bond after pleading innocent to previous charges, including securities fraud and filing false reports to financial regulators.

New claims for unemployment insurance shot up last week to their second-highest level of the year, another sign of the difficulties facing workers as companies seek leaner payrolls. The Labor Department reported that new applications for jobless benefits rose by a seasonally adjusted 30,000 to 442,000 for the week ending April 12. For nine straight weeks, claims have been above the key 400,000 mark associated with a stagnant job market.

Michael Jordan ended his illustrious basketball career, playing his final game with the Washington Wizards Wednesday. Amid lengthy ovations, Jordan scored 15 points. He averaged 20 points per game this year - far fewer than in his heyday, when he led the NBA in scoring 10 times and his Chicago Bulls won six championships in eight years.

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