USA

It's just "a matter of time" before US forces find Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, President Bush asserted Saturday, although he acknowledged no illegal weapons have turned up yet, and that high-ranking captives haven't been helpful in the search. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld echoed that opinion on the TV show "Fox News Sunday," adding he's confident ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein will eventually be caught, if he's still alive. The Bush administration's insistence that Hussein had deceived UN weapons inspectors was a main justification for the war.

Several Palestinian militant groups denied that Syria has heeded Secretary of State Powell's call for a clampdown, while denouncing US pressure to curb their anti-Israel activities. After discussions with Syria's president in Damascus Saturday, Powell said Bashar Assad's government had closed the offices of some militant groups, adding, "I expect them to do more." Powell returns to the region this week to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the new "road map" toward peace.

The US unemployment rate rose again to 6 percent in April, after a drop to 5.8 percent the previous month, the Labor Department reported Friday. Federal Reserve policymakers meet Tuesday to assess the economy, and, while most analysts don't expect an immediate change in already low interest rates, some say the Fed may hint at a rate cut later this year.

Nine Democratic presidential hopefuls squared off in their first debate of the 2004 election season Saturday night, offering varying opinions on the war against Iraq and Bush's proposed tax cut. Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and John Edwards of North Carolina expressed reservations about a proposal by House minority leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri to repeal the Bush tax cut to finance health insurance reform. The debate was held at the University of South Carolina in Columbia. Meanwhile, a new opinion poll gave Bush 60 percent support, compared to about 30 percent each for Lieberman, Gephardt, and Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts. The poll was conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post.

Teachers, parents, students, and union leaders protesting a proposed $1.2 billion cut in education funding converged on the New York state capital, Albany, Saturday. Gov. George Pataki (R) wants to limit schools to $13.3 billion this year, under a package designed to address the state's estimated $11.5 billion budget shortfall without raising taxes. Rally organizers estimated the crowd at 40,000, while police put the figure at between 12,000 and 15,000.

New Hampshire lost its signature landmark, the Old Man of the Mountain. The 40-foot-high rock formation, resembling a wizened human face in profile, was found to have disintegrated, apparently due to natural causes, by state park workers Saturday. An outcrop jutting from one side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia, it had been the subject of almost a century of preservation efforts.

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