USA

Blaming Saddam Hussein loyalists and foreign fighters for a surge in Iraqi violence, President Bush said they're trying to "cause people to run.... That's what terrorists do." Bush spoke at a news conference after a car bomb killed at least six more people Tuesday in Fallujah. Turning to domestic issues, Bush expressed sympathy for those affected by the California wildfires and said the economy is showing signs of "broad and gathering strength."

High winds eased, aiding the 10,000 firefighters trying to contain California's worst blazes in decades. Arson is suspected or confirmed in several of the fires, which have killed 17 people - two of them in Mexico - destroyed more than 1,100 homes, and forced 40,000 residents to evacuate. Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was meeting with congressional leaders in Washington on federal aid, a day after Bush declared disasters in four counties.

Dismissing as "irrelevant" a demand by Secretary of State Powell that Iran extradite Al Qaeda operatives in its custody, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a statement on state radio that detainees "will be tried in Iranian courts." Asefi added, without providing specifics, that Iran has "a number" of such suspects in custody. Powell said the US wanted "clarification" of Iran's report to the UN that it has expelled 225 members of the terrorist group to their home countries.

The Senate confirmed Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt (R) to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Minority Democrats, who had threatened a filibuster to block the nomination, dropped their opposition Monday, taking a cue from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) of New York. She said she changed her mind after receiving a letter from the administration, promising added protections for New Yorkers exposed to potentially harmful substances at the destroyed World Trade Center.

Authorities in Boca Raton, Fla., were considering criminal charges in the fatal shooting of a teenage prankster. Answering a late-night knock at his door Friday, Jay Levin fired at Mark Drewes, whom he said he mistook for a burglar. The boy and a friend had been awakening neighbors and then fleeing.

Charged with sending explicit e-mail messages to agents posing as teenage girls, the headmaster of an exclusive New York school was ordered held on $25,000 bail Monday. The Trevor Day School placed John Dexter on a leave of absence but said there was no reason to believe students were involved in his alleged misconduct.

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