USA

Howard Dean and US Rep. Richard Gephardt (D) of Missouri are virtually tied in Iowa, one week before the Democratic presidential rivals test their support in the state's first-in-the-nation party caucuses. A newly released Reuters/MSNBC/ Zogby poll found the former Vermont governor ahead of Gephardt by a statistically insignificant 25 percent to 23 percent. Meanwhile, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, picked up an endorsement from Iowa's largest newspaper, the Des Moines Register. Three other papers backed Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.

President Bush is expected to face sharp questions from regional leaders at a two-day summit scheduled to begin Monday in Monterrey, Mexico. Many have criticized US counterterrorism measures that require travelers to be fingerprinted and photographed. Mexican President Vicente Fox acknowledged Saturday that his country's efforts to boost airline security, at US behest, have generated "an enormous number of commentaries." Many of the more than 30 leaders at the summit also are interested in Bush's proposed immigration reforms and in talks for a free-trade zone of the Americas.

Bush began his term in office convinced that Saddam Hussein "needed to go," former Treasury Secretary O'Neill claimed in an interview scheduled to air Sunday night on the CBS-TV show "60 Minutes." In comments released early to the news media, O'Neill said he was uneasy with preemptive war planning that he asserted began well before Sept. 11, 2001. White House press secretary Scott McClellan declined to confirm or deny the claim, but said the Iraqi leader "was a threat to peace" before the terrorist attacks, and even more of a threat afterward. O'Neill, who was dismissed in December 2002, is promoting a new book about his experiences in the Bush administration.

Regional carrier Mesaba Airlines resumed most flights after reaching a tentative contract deal with its pilots union early Sunday. Mesaba canceled all service Saturday after a strike deadline expired. The airline transports Northwest Airlines customers from hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit, and Memphis to rural cities.

Arctic air brought a record-setting freeze to much of the Northeast over the weekend. In St. Johnsbury, Vt., temperatures fell to 27 degrees below zero F., Saturday, and it was three below at Boston's Logan Airport. The American Automobile Association reported 1,000 calls an hour from motorists whose cars wouldn't start due to the cold.

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