USA

About to embark on his first visit to Africa, President Bush defended his use of US military might, saying Saturday that the American mission abroad was to spread freedom and to relieve suffering. While Bush had excluded Africa from his foreign policy agenda during the 2000 election campaign, he has since announced foreign aid and anti-HIV initiatives for the continent and is weighing whether to send a US peacekeeping force to Liberia. African leaders have asked Bush to make a decision on Liberia before he departs Monday.

In related developments, the leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Sunday they want Bush to get congressional approval before any troops are sent to Liberia. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military leadership would prefer that West African armies take the lead in any effort to end the conflict.

The former US ambassador who investigated a report about Iraq buying uranium from Niger for the CIA accused the Bush administration of twisting intelligence to exaggerate the threat posed by former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. In a New York Times article Sunday, Joseph Wilson detailed his role in investigating the report - which he says turned out to be a forgery. The report was cited by the US and British governments while building their case for an invasion of Iraq.

Despite 5-4 votes and blistering dissents, the US Supreme Court is not fractured, Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Stephen Breyer said in a rare television interview broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week." The justices were not asked about cases in the recently completed term, about 20 percent of which were decided by a narrow 5-4 margin.

NASA once again was forced to postpone the launch of its latest Mars mission, aiming for a liftoff Monday after a battery failure halted the countdown Sunday. The Mars Expedition Rover B, nicknamed "Opportunity," has been delayed since June 24 by a series of problems, ranging from bad weather to warped insulation to an errant fishing boat that wandered into restricted waterways just before a planned liftoff.

An Arizona wildfire that has destroyed 300 mountaintop homes pushed into a new subdivision and razed six cabins early Sunday. The losses occurred in Willow Canyon, one of three areas in the Santa Catalina Mountains threatened by the more than two-week-old blaze that has blackened 70,000 acres. Meanwhile, another wildfire erupted Saturday night about 250 miles north in the Prescott National Forest, forcing the evacuation of about 100 homes.

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