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News Briefs

Bush Signs Farm Bill


President Bush, setting aside his rhetorical devotion to free markets, signed a farm bill Monday that will shower billions of dollars in new subsidies on breadbasket states that will help determine control of Congress in November’s elections.

In his first year in office, the president called for a bill that was “generous but affordable.” Monday, he simply called it generous. “It will promote farmer independence, and preserve the farm way of life for generations,” Bush said. “It helps America’s farmers, and therefore it helps America.”

The bill has infuriated crucial U.S. trading partners in Europe and Asia, and repudiates a Republican-championed 1996 law designed to wean farmers from government funds. It is estimated to cost $180 billion over 10 years -- $83 billion more than the cost of continuing current programs, and increasing by two-thirds the payments for grain and cotton farms, most of them large operations.

U.S. Delays U.N. Vote On Iraqi Sanctions


For the second time in a week, the Bush administration postponed a vote on a U.S.-sponsored Security Council resolution designed to tighten military sanctions against Iraq and eliminate most restrictions on its trade in civilian goods.

But U.S. officials remained confident that Washington’s proposal would be adopted by the 15-nation council as early as Tuesday. “We feel confident that consensus has been achieved, and we just need time for all capitals to sign on,” a U.S. official here said.

The latest delay was spurred by a request Monday afternoon from Syria, an alleged buyer of discounted, illicit Iraqi oil and the lone Arab country on the council, that it be allowed to consider the resolution overnight.

Syria earlier had asked for changes in the U.S. resolution, including the insertion of a paragraph asserting Iraq’s right to self defense, under Article 51 of the United Nations charter, “if an armed attack occurs” against a U.N. member.

The United States and other members of the Security Council rejected the changes.

U.S., British Forces Report Progress


U.S. and British forces both declared successes Monday in the two-steps-forward, one-back war to eradicate Taliban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan, even as they were targeted again from the enemy’s relocated mountain strongholds.

U.S. troops on a mission in eastern Afghanistan to hunt down those responsible for menacing their base near the Khost airport with sporadic rocket fire located the launch sites but none of the perpetrators. Meanwhile, two more rockets were fired in the vicinity of the troops.

British-led Operation Snipe wrapped up after 16 days with an impressive scorecard of dozens of collapsed caves, tons of destroyed ammunition and strategic transit routes now sealed by Afghan allies. The 1,000 troops, backed by U.S. air power, scoured nearly 80 square miles of the rugged Chumara Valley between Khost and Gardez to prevent its future use as a safe haven for terrorists.

The British troops did not encounter any Taliban or al-Qaida fighters in the more than two weeks they were combing the region. And in a telling display of the persistent hit-and-run capability of the enemy, two 107mm Chinese-made rockets were trained on the soldiers as they prepared to depart.