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Under Pressure, Bush Concedes on Benchmarks

As the House approved a plan on Thursday to finance the Iraq war only through midsummer, President Bush offered his first public concession to try to resolve the impasse on war spending, acknowledging rising pressure from his own party and the public.

After a briefing at the Pentagon, Bush said he had instructed Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, to reach “common ground” with lawmakers of both parties over setting firm goals, or benchmarks, to measure progress in Iraq. Bush had previously insisted he wanted about $95 billion for the military with no strings attached.

“It makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward,” Bush said, even as he threatened to veto the House plan, approved on a 221-205 vote Thursday night, to require him to seek approval in two months for the balance of the war money.

The bill approved by the House would provide $42.8 billion total, with about $30 billion directed to the war effort for the next two months. It requires the president to report by July 13 on how the Iraqi government is performing in building its military and moving toward achieving political unity in the battered country. Congress would then vote a second time on whether to give the administration the remainder of the money — about $50 billion — to maintain operations in Iraq through Sept. 30 or to restrict that money to deployment.

Makers of Painkiller OxyContin Plead Guilty to Charges

The company that makes the narcotic painkiller OxyContin and three current and former executives pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court here to criminal charges that they misled regulators, doctors and patients about the drug’s risk of addiction and its potential to be abused.

To resolve criminal and civil charges related to the drug’s “misbranding”, the parent of Purdue Pharma, the company that markets OxyContin, agreed to pay more than $600 million in fines. That is the third-highest amount ever paid by a drug company in such a case.

Also, in a rare move, three executives of Purdue Pharma, including its president and it top lawyer, pleaded guilty Thursday as individuals to misbranding charges, a criminal violation. They agreed to pay a total of $34.5 million in fines.

U.N. Security Council to Review Draft on Kosovo Independence

The United States and its European allies will circulate a draft U.N. Security Council resolution Friday to endorse a plan granting Kosovo supervised independence, Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to the United Nations, said Thursday.

The plan, brokered by Martti Ahtisaari, the U.N. mediator, is favored by the ethnic Albanians, who make up 90 percent of the population of Kosovo, but it is fiercely opposed by Serbia and its veto-bearing ally on the Council, Russia.

“Forcing a decision on Kosovo would be counterproductive,” Vitaly I. Churkin, the Russian ambassador, said Thursday after a Security Council briefing on a fact-finding mission that Council ambassadors made last month to Kosovo and Belgrade, the Serbian capital.

Churkin said Russia still had problems with the plan that “clearly cannot be reconciled,” and he refused to rule out a veto. He said Russia sought further negotiations on the future of Kosovo, a Serbian province that has been under U.N. administration since 1999.