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News Briefs

Sharon Hints He Has Dropped Vow Not To Harm Arafat

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- JERUSALEM

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has suggested that he no longer feels bound by a 3-year-old commitment to President Bush not to harm Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader.

Sharon’s spokesman, Raanan Gissin, said that Israel had no immediate intention to act against Arafat. But the substance and timing of Sharon’s threatening remarks, in an interview published here on Monday, were significant.

His comments came as Israelis entered the Passover holiday braced for threatened retaliation by the militant group Hamas for the killing two weeks ago of its spiritual leader, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Gissin said that, with 58 intelligence warnings of possible attacks, “The level of alerts is at an all-time high today.”

Sharon appeared to be signaling that he felt new freedom to act against Arafat in the event of a devastating terrorist attack.

Further, Sharon is trying to shore up support among right-wing Israelis alarmed by his plan for a unilateral withdrawal from most or all of the Gaza Strip and possibly part of the West Bank. At a Cabinet meeting on Sunday, he clashed over the plan with far-right members of his governing coalition.

Blair To Confer With Bush As Iraq Worries Grow

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- LONDON

Prime Minister Tony Blair will fly to Washington next week for a meeting with President Bush that will be dominated by concern over mounting instability and the political transition in Iraq, British officials said on Monday.

The meeting comes at a critical moment for the American-British alliance in Iraq as dual insurgencies by disaffected Sunni Muslims, who backed Saddam Hussein, and militant Shiites flare. Details of the Bush-Blair agenda were being closely held, but officials here said it would focus on how to stabilize the country while seeking to adhere to the June 30 deadline for turning over sovereignty to an Iraqi government.

British officials said that Blair’s trip had been previously scheduled and therefore was not a “crisis” summit meeting on Iraq. But the officials, who spoke on the condition that they not be identified, said the sudden surge in violence and instability in the Sunni heartland west of Baghdad and in Shiite neighborhoods and towns would transform the meeting into a strategic review of policies toward Iraq.

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Drug-sniffing Dog Case

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether the police need a special reason in order to subject a car they have stopped for an ordinary traffic violation to a trained drug-sniffing dog.

The case is an appeal by the state of Illinois from a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court. That court found last year by a vote of 4-3 that exposure to a drug-sniffing dog, without any particular reason to suspect that the car contained drugs, had unconstitutionally broadened the scope of a routine traffic stop that led to the discovery of a large quantity of marijuana in the trunk.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1983 that exposure of luggage at an airport to a trained dog did not constitute a search within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition of unreasonable searches. The canine sniff is in a class by itself, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in that case, explaining that the sniff was less intrusive and revealing than an ordinary search.