Vice President Cheney, only just returned from the Mideast, may go back next week for a meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a US official said. The object of the 10-day trip was to win support for a US-sought "regime change" in Iraq – although he didn't get much – and to try to reduce intensive violence between Israel and the Palestinians. After a suicide bomber killed seven people in northern Israel Wednesday, the White House repeated its call for Arafat to make a "100 percent effort so that violence subsides."

As he prepared for a four-day trip to Latin America, President Bush defended his proposal to set aside $5 billion in foreign aid for nations that carry out political and economic reforms. While the US is obligated to help poor countries, Bush said, "it makes no sense to give aid ... to countries that are corrupt." The president also said he was considering ways to improve border security. One proposal would merge customs and border-patrol duties into a new agency under the control of the Justice Department. Bush leaves today for a UN-sponsored anti-poverty summit in Monterrey, Mexico, followed by stops in Peru and El Salvador. (Related story, page 7; opinion, page 9.)

Bush has decided not to certify that North Korea is complying with a 1994 agreement not to develop nuclear weapons, an administration official said. Congress demanded annual certification as part of a deal to help the insular Communist state upgrade its avowedly peaceful nuclear power facilities. The president's move won't necessarily halt cooperation, but analysts said it further strains relations with a government Bush has named as part of an "axis of evil," with Iraq and Iran.

Troubled auditor Arthur Andersen LLP pleaded innocent to obstruction of justice charges at a court hearing, saying the indictment for shredding Enron Corp. documents was "couched in broad, vague, and conclusory terms." An attorney for the Chicago-based company said he would ask for the trial to begin within weeks, to confront what he termed "flimsy" government evidence.

In a surprise move, acting Massachusetts Gov. Jane Swift (R) withdrew her candidacy for election in her own right. Swift, trailing far behind presumed rival Mitt Romney in recent opinion polls, said she wanted to devote more time to her family. Hours later, Romney, organizer of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, declared: "Lest there be any doubt, I'm in." (Story, page 1.)

In primary races to replace controversial Illinois Gov. George Ryan (R), attorney general Jim Ryan easily won the GOP nomination. (Above, Ryan's wife, Marie, wipes off lipstick from her victory kiss.) Democrats gave their gubernatorial nod to US Rep. Rod Blagojevich, who used a state-wide organization to edge past strong opponents. A former aide to President Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, won the Democratic nomination for the seat Blagojevich vacated.

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