After lifting US economic sanctions on Iraq, the Bush administration was to submit a resolution to the Security Council as early as Friday, diplomats said, that would end the UN's trade embargo immediately and phase out the oil-for-food program by fall. France and Russia have said they want a slower approach. Meanwhile, another 2,000 US experts will join the hunt for weapons of mass destruction and ousted regime leaders in Iraq, the Defense Department said, tripling the current size of search teams. The Pentagon also confirmed it is conducting tests on a trailer rig found in northern Iraq last month, which military officials strongly suspect was a mobile weapons lab.

The Senate voted unanimously to authorize NATO membership for seven Eastern European states. So far, only the US, Canada, and Norway have ratified expanding the military alliance to include Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Membership must be approved by all 19 current NATO members.

An explosion injured 11 marines on the USS Saipan, an amphibious assault ship in the northern Arabian Sea in support of military operations in Iraq. None of the injuries are considered life-threatening, Navy officials said. The cause of the blast is under investigation.

In a decision criticized by activists on both sides of the abortion divide, Connecticut's Supreme Court ruled that a fetus is a body part of the mother, similar to growing teeth, hair, or skin. In a separate opinion, Chief Justice William Sullivan said a fetus "may be both a part of its mother as well as its own individual being." The case involves Edwin Sandoval, who was sentenced to 12 years in jail for giving his pregnant girlfriend a labor-inducing drug. Sandoval's attorney said he would appeal to the US Supreme Court.

A day after being indicted for alleged sexual abuse of a child, the Rev. Maurice Blackwell was due to surrender to authorities in Baltimore. The Roman Catholic priest is being charged with molesting Dontee Stokes more than a decade ago, when Stokes was his Bible-study student. In December, Stokes was convicted of weapons charges but acquitted of attempted murder for shooting Blackwell.

Severe storms were again assaulting Midwest and Southern states. Heavy rains and floods hit parts of Arkansas and Tennessee. In southern Illinois, forecasters warned of possible tornadoes Thursday. An insurance trade group estimated damage from tornadoes that struck the region earlier in the week at more than $325 million.

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