USA

This month's record high crude oil and retail gasoline prices were expected to be major talking points as President Bush met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and the kingdom's oil minister at Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch. Saudi Arabia, the world's No. 1 oil producer, has struggled to keep the market in balance as demand surges in China and India. Vice President Cheney, the architect of Bush's energy plan, met with the Saudi contingent a day earlier, but refused to give details of their discussions. Although Saudi Arabia has vowed to increase oil production from 9.5 million to 12.5 million barrels a day by 2009 - and a $8 billion bill to encourage more domestic energy production is working its way through Congress - Bush has cautioned Americans not to expect instant relief.

Federal law-enforcement officials in New York were expected to announce the arrest of an Afghan drug lord accused of importing $50 million worth of heroin to the US and other countries. The suspect's name was not available as the Monitor went to press, but Bush has called him one of the world's most wanted men. The suspect, who allegedly works manufacturing and transporting heroin in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is said to have close ties to the Taliban.

The Supreme Court declined to consider the case of 17 former Gulf War prisoners who sought to collect $959 million from Iraq for alleged torture. The justices let stand a lower court ruling that Congress never authorized such lawsuits against foreign governments. The Bush administration, which opposed the appeal, has suggested in filings that the president may seek compensation for the 1991 POWs through diplomatic means once the new Iraqi regime is "firmly established."

William Weld, the former two-term governor of Massachusetts, has been in discussions with New York Republican officials about a possible run for governor or for the US Senate, according to various media sources. Weld ran unsuccessfully in 1996 for the US Senate seat now held by John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts. But he is a New York native and has lived and worked there since 2000. Political observers believe Weld is being wooed as a possible high-profile replacement candidate for Gov. George Pataki (R), who may run for president.

The median price of an existing US home rose to $195,000 in March, an 11.4 percent increase that was the largest one-year jump in more than two decades, the National Association of Realtors reported. Industry figures also indicate that the sales of existing homes and condominiums rose by 1 percent in March, the third-highest sales pace on record.

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