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Briefs (left)

US Considers Temporary
Troop Increase in Iraq

By David S. Cloud

Pentagon officials conducting a review of Iraq strategy are considering a substantial but temporary increase in American troop levels and the addition of several thousand more trainers to work with Iraqi forces, a senior Defense Department official said on Monday.

The idea, dubbed the “surge option” by some officials, would involve increasing American forces by 20,000 troops or more for several months in the hope of improving security, especially in Baghdad. That would mark a sharp rise over the current baseline of 144,000 troops.

But some officials and senior military officers are arguing against the idea, saying that it could undercut a sense of urgency for Iraqi units to take on a greater role in fighting the insurgency and preventing sectarian attacks. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress last week that the military is stretched so thin that such an increase could not be sustained over the long term.

“There are people who believe that a short-term surge would have a beneficial impact, but there isn’t universal agreement on that yet,” said the senior official, who said that President Bush was scheduled to be briefed in the next several weeks on the developing options.

Bush Ends Trip at
Careful Stop in Indonesia

By David E. Sanger

President Bush made a six-hour, carefully orchestrated visit to Indonesia on Monday, praising the country’s first directly elected president and seeking to defuse the widespread anger here, in the most populous Islamic country, over the continued American presence in Iraq.

Bush, whose visit to Indonesia three years ago was consumed with talk of counterterrorism, this time appeared focused on fighting bird flu, bolstering a small program to aid Indonesian schools and promoting growth.

And in an afternoon of meetings at an ornate presidential palace that is a legacy of Dutch colonial rule, Bush held a closed-door session with what the White House called “civic leaders” of Indonesia.

Protestors and their “Stop Bush Now” placards could get no where near the Bogor palace, which is an hour outside of Jakarta and heavily protected by troops and fences. But Bush turned the Jakarta protests into a example of how far Indonesia has come in allowing free expression.

Bus’ Plunge Off Overpass
Kills 3 Pupils and Hurts 11

By Brenda Goodman

A school bus plunged nearly 40 feet off a highway overpass in Huntsville, Ala., on Monday and crashed nose-first into the ground, killing three students and sending 11 others to the intensive care unit, officials said.

“It appears a small compact car also being driven by a student cut in front of, or got too close to, the bus,” said Rex Reynolds, chief of the Huntsville City Police Department.

Reynolds said the driver of the car, a young man, was in custody and being interviewed, but he would not release his name or age.

A team from the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the accident.

Two high school students, Nicole Ford, 17, and Christine Collier, 18, died at the scene. A third girl, Tanesha Hill, died at Huntsville Hospital, a hospital spokeswoman said. Hill’s age was not immediately available.