As a compromise, the US is willing to consider suspending UN oil sanctions on Iraq, Secretary of State Powell said. "But," he stressed, "our preference is to lift." Powell spoke during a stop in Sofia, Bulgaria, Thursday, en route to Berlin and following talks with officials in Moscow. Russia, Germany, and Bulgaria all are members of the Security Council, where the US is pushing for a sanctions vote next week.

The driver of a tractor-trailer in which 18 illegal immigrants suffocated was appearing before a federal magistrate in Houston Thursday. Tyrone Williams of Schenectady, N.Y., was being charged with transporting and harboring aliens and conspiracy, the district attorney said, and probably will face state charges as well. At least two other suspects are being sought in the deadliest such incident in 15 years. More than 100 people, mainly Mexican nationals, were packed into the trailer; 39 survivors are in custody.

Attorney General Ashcroft announced the indictment of two Yemeni fugitives in the 2000 terrorist bombing of the destroyer USS Cole, which killed 17 sailors. Fahd Mohammed Ahmed Al-Quso and Jamal al-Badawi, were trained by Al Qaeda, Ashcroft said. They are among 10 suspects who escaped from jail last month in Yemen.

The Coast Guard was trying to coax two suspected Cuban migrants from the water off Key Largo, Fla., as the Monitor went to press. Four others were rescued after diving off their small boat, officials said. Cuban migrants who reach US soil are allowed to stay, but those intercepted at sea may be deported.

Wholesale prices fell a record 1.9 percent in April, with energy prices, cars, and other products all down, according to the Labor Department's producer price index, which measures costs at factories, farms, and refineries. The drop is likely to fuel concerns about possible deflation, economists said.

More than 50 Democratic state lawmakers said they'll return to Texas Friday from Ardmore, Okla. They spent most the week at the Holiday Inn there, averting a vote in the GOP-dominated House in Austin on a hotly contested redistricting bill.

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