In her Senate confirmation hearing, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice pledged to work to mend and strengthen ties with allies that have been frayed by Iraq. During pointed questioning from Democratic members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, President Bush's national security adviser said she could not give Congress a timetable for US disengagement. On another issue, she raised the possibility that Bush might name an envoy to the Palestinians if the time were found to be "appropriate."

The Supreme Court rejected a request by attorneys of Guantánamo Bay detainee to put his case on a fast track and to rule immediately on the legality of tribunals for terrorism suspects being held at the US Navy base in Cuba. Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a Yemeni accused of being Osama bin Laden's personal bodyguard, is among 550 detained at the prison since 2001. The refusal to hear the case means Hamdan's challenge could take another year to resolve, his attorneys said.

Bush said unity across party lines will be the most important message of his inaugural address Thursday. During network interviews on Monday, the president said he hoped that Republicans and Democrats could unite now that all his campaigning is behind him. Bush also said he didn't agree with critics who've called plans for the inaugural excessive.

Iraqi expatriates began registering to vote Monday in five US cities for their homeland's first independent election in almost 50 years. Among metropolitan areas where registration and voting facilities have been established: Chicago, Washington, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Nashville. The registration period ends Sunday. Voting will begin Jan. 28 and continue until the Jan. 30 election in Iraq.

Officials in Ventura County, Calif., said Monday that the mound of mud and debris created by last week's deadly bluff collapse in La Conchita should not be moved, since "a certain equilibrium or balance can be achieved by keeping it in place." However, the county and owners of destroyed property north of Los Angeles will help make the final decision. The mudslide killed 10 people.

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