After removing Saddam Hussein, coalition forces in Iraq will help to build a "peaceful and representative" government and then they will leave, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in a televised message broadcast throughout the war-torn country. Secretary of State Powell, meanwhile, hurried to reassure Turkey that US forces will quickly dislodge Kurdish fighters who seized control in the northern city of Kirkuk, a key oil center. Turkey fears the Kurds may try to establish an independent state.

The US trade deficit narrowed 2.2 percent in February to $40.3 billion, the Commerce Department reported. Economists had expected it to widen in a month when crude oil prices rose to a 20-year high. Despite the contraction, the trade gap was the third largest monthly deficit on record.

A compromise by House and Senate negotiators on the $2.2 trillion budget for 2004 was said to be in doubt, amid questions over whether it would permit the $626 billion in tax cuts OK'd by the House. The Senate version allows for just $350 billion. It was part of a flurry of activity in advance of Friday's start of the Easter recess. Other measures included:

• A bill passed by the Senate to expand tax breaks for charitable donations.

• House-approved legislation that would protect gun manufacturers and distributors from lawsuits for damages resulting from illegal or improper use of their product. Since 1998, 33 states, counties, and municipalities have sued gunmakers for alleged lax distribution policies.

A federal jury convicted four of 11 Miami police officers charged in a scandal over a series of shootings that prompted their chief to resign and the creation of a civilian review board. Three others were acquitted, and a mistrial was declared for the remaining four. They'd been accused of plotting to plant guns on unarmed suspects in the shootings, killed three people and wounded another.

First-round play in the Masters golf tournament was postponed because of rain amid controversy over the all-male membership policy of its host, Augusta (Ga.) National Golf Club. Club chairman Hootie Johnson was firm in insisting that "We have no timetable" for admitting female members. It wasn't clear whether women's rights groups led by activist Martha Burk would go ahead with a planned protest outside the front gates, after losing a court appeal on how far away it could be held.

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