As expected, President Bush Tuesday vetoed a $124 billion bill to fund the Iraq war that would have required US combat troops to begin withdrawing by Oct. 1. "It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing," Mr. Bush said in a televised address. He also criticized the $21 billion in nonemergency spending added to the bill. Congressional leaders from both parties were scheduled to meet with the president Wednesday, after the Monitor's press time.

Chrysler was the only major automaker to report improved car and truck sales in the US in April, when sales normally pick up, according to Autodata Corp. industry figures released Tuesday. Sales for all automakers fell 7.6 percent to 1.34 million. Even Toyota experienced a rare decline, including a 5.7 percent drop-off in sales of the Camry, its most popular US model. High consumer debt, rising gasoline prices, and economic uncertainty were among factors cited for the slide.

A US advisory panel on Wednesday added Iraq to its list of countries in which religious freedom faces severe threat, citing rising sectarian violence and abuses such as arbitrary arrest, torture, and rape. The US Commission on International Religious Freedom noted that while militias and terrorist groups commit most of the abuses, the Iraqi government also bears substantial responsibility.

Dozens of prominent scientists criticized the Interior Department's new interpretation of the Endangered Species Act, saying in a letter of protest it would jeopardize animals including the wolf and grizzly bear. The policy would oblige the US Fish and Wildlife Service to protect only threatened or endangered plants and animals, not those in good shape.

Bush urged reluctant legislators Wednesday to approve a free-trade deal with Colombia that he'd signed in November. The pact has stalled in Congress due to concerns over US job losses, poor treatment of unions in Colombia, and the costly drug war the US is supporting there. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is on a three-day lobbying trip in Washington, seeking support for the trade deal and for more military and antinarcotics aid.

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Pennsylvania official can't require proof of legal residence before issuing a marriage license. Jose Guadelupe Arias-Maravilla, an illegal immigrant whom an immigration court ordered returned to Mexico in mid-May, sought to wed his American girlfriend last month and was refused a license.

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