The White House was seeking to patch up strains with its closest ally after Defense Secretary Rumsfeld suggested the US was ready to go to war with Iraq without British military support. Reports said White House officials were annoyed at Rumsfeld's suggestion, which he later backtracked on after it triggered a firestorm in Britain. Britain has sent about 25,000 troops to the Gulf region.

With a blast sounding "like thunder," the first live test of MOAB, a 21,000-pound device nicknamed "mother of all bombs" was conducted Tuesday at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. The weapon, whose acronym stands for Massive Ordnance Air Burst, is being developed as the most powerful in the US conventional arsenal. While Rumsfeld declined to comment on its possible use against Iraq, other military officials suggested it could be deployed.

An investigation was under way into the cause of the crash of an Army helicopter at Fort Drum, N.Y., Wednesday. The Army confirmed that 11 of the 13 soldiers aboard died when it went down in clear weather. Fort Drum is the home of the 10th Mountain Division and a major staging area for reserve units deploying overseas.

The 650 detainees at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba have no legal rights in the US and may not ask judges to review their detentions, an appeals court in Washington ruled Tuesday. The ruling by three-judge panel unanimously upheld a lower court decision. Families of 16 detainees from Australia, Britain, and Kuwait are challenging the Bush administration's right to hold suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters without charge.

Obstruction of justice charges against San Francisco's police chief and his top aide were dropped by District Attorney Terence Hallinan. But Hallinan said he'll still prosecute others in a suspected conspiracy to thwart an investigation of three officers who allegedly attacked two men on the street for their bag of food. Police critics said they hope efforts to reform the force won't stall with the prosecutors' decision.

Drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge appears to hinge on one vote in a measure that Senate Republicans said will likely be taken up next week. Sources said 49 senators are set to OK the plan, and that Vice President Cheney was working to secure the 50th. As Senate president, he could cast the 51st vote. Drilling in the region is one of President Bush's top domestic priorities.

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