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News Briefs

Bush, Blair Meet to Settle Details of War in Iraq

After a walk through the gardens of a centuries-old castle, President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair settled in Monday for a two-day meeting aimed at resolving the details of how Iraq will be governed after the current conflict ends.

The two leaders also are scheduled to talk about plans for easing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and accelerating the fitful peace process in Northern Ireland, according to U.S. and British officials.

The third meeting between Bush and Blair in just over three weeks is occurring at a hopeful moment for their combat forces in Iraq, and the battlefield successes are prompting both leaders to look ahead, according to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. “The hostilities phase is coming to a conclusion,” he told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Belfast. “It’s time for all of us to think about the post-hostilities phase.”

But Blair and Bush still have some lingering differences over that phase, and it remains unclear whether they will have settled them when their summit concludes Tuesday with a joint news conference. British and U.S. officials both played down expectations of a final agreement.

War News Perks Up Markets

A promising early session stock rally Monday responded to the chance of a quick victory in Iraq. But experts say a major test of the market’s longer term prospects will come next week when earnings season gets into full swing.

The Dow Jones industrial average soared as much as 243 points in early morning trading Monday as investors speculated that the war would end quickly.

Toward the end of the day, however, traders who look for technical changes to trigger their sales began dumping stock. The Dow ended up only 23.26 points to close at 8,300.41. The broader, Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose a mere 1.08 points to close at 879.93 while the tech-heavy Nasdaq gained 6 points to end at 1,389.51.

“You buy on the rumor and you sell on the news, this very much appeared to be that much of a day on Wall Street,” said Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer at First Albany Corp. “For four weeks now, investors have been buying on the expectation that the war would end and there would be a rally. The news seemed to suggest that the war was nearly over ... so they sold on the news.”

Health Officials See Hope For Containing SARS

The government’s top scientists expressed cautious confidence Monday in their ability to control the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the United States, even as the number of SARS cases worldwide climbed above 2,600.

Joined via satellite by a top official of the World Health Organization, the scientists told a Senate committee that “extraordinary” cooperation among local, national and international health agencies has slowed the epidemic and boosted efforts to prevent and treat the disease.

“The world has responded as we hoped it would,” the organization’s Dr. David L. Heymann said from Geneva. “We believe we will be able to contain the epidemic.”

The overwhelming response to the disease is due, at least in part, to the health agencies’ efforts to prepare for smallpox and other possible bioterror attacks, the officials said.