USA

The White House announced that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will meet with President Bush in Washington Thursday and Friday. The two are expected to discuss ways to revitalize the Middle East peace process, which Blair has called "the single most pressing political challenge in our world today." Blair will be the first foreign leader to visit Bush since the Nov. 2 election and the first welcomed to the White House since August.

As many as 4,000 shoulder-fired missiles, which can be used to down aircraft, could be missing from Iraqi weapons depots that were not secured after the US-led invasion, The Washington Post said in Sunday's editions. According to defense analysts and officials it is unclear whether the portable missiles remain in Iraq or how many may be in working order, the Post reported.

Robert Blackwill, the Bush administration's lead official on Iraq policy, will leave in the coming weeks, media sources reported over the weekend, citing an unidentified White House official. Blackwill, who some observers consider a possible successor to Condoleezza Rice if she should resign as national security adviser, is widely credited with shaping the admini-stration's policy of transitioning from US control in Iraq to establishing an interim Iraqi government.

Hiring workers to clean up after four hurricanes that struck Florida and the Southeast in August and September helped boost national employment in October, which rose by 337,000 new jobs, the largest surge in seven months, according to the Labor Department. Some analysts view the increase as a sign that recovery in the jobs market may have taken hold.

David Miyasato, a veteran of the first Gulf War, sued the Army in Honolulu late last week, saying he should not be pressed back into active duty 13 years after he was honorably discharged and eight years after he left the Reserves.

Inauguration Day traditions will be followed Jan. 20 when President Bush is sworn in for a second term, but security for the event will be greatly increased, according to the Washington Post. Thousands of police from across the country and military troops, possibly including combat units, are part of the plan for the first post-9/11 inauguration, according to the Post.

The glowing lava formation has risen 330 feet in the past week and a half inside Mount St. Helens' crater, scientists at the Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash, said. Molten rock first reached the surface Oct. 11, marking the resumption of dome-building activity that had stopped in 1986.

Washington's cliffhanger gubernatorial race between state attorney general Christine Gregoire (D) and state Sen. Dino Rossi (R) is still undecided. It could be several weeks before all the mailed-in absentee ballots are counted.

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