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Craig Says He Will Stay in Senate, Though Bid to Alter Plea Is Denied

Sen. Larry E. Craig of Idaho, defying the wishes of many in his own Republican Party, said Thursday that he would remain in the Senate through next year despite a court ruling against him in Minnesota, where he sought to rescind his guilty plea stemming from an undercover sex sting.

Shortly after a judge denied his request to withdraw the August plea admitting to disorderly conduct, Craig said he had reversed his previously announced decision to leave the Senate if he could not get the plea thrown out, and would instead serve out his third term, which expires at the end of 2008. He said he would not run for a fourth.

“When my term has expired, I will retire and not seek re-election,” said Craig, who was accused of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in the bathroom of the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in early June. “I hope this provides the certainty Idaho needs and deserves.”

His decision was a major disappointment to Republican leaders, who had hoped Craig would make good on his initial pledge and spare them from the potential political liability of having a senior lawmaker who has become a punch line.

In Plea, Track Star Will Admit to Using Steroids, Lawyers Say

The former track star Marion Jones, one of the most accomplished female athletes in the world, is expected to plead guilty Friday to lying to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs, two lawyers connected with the case said Thursday. The admission would end years of denial and would likely lead to her being stripped of the record five medals she won in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia.

Jones, 31, who won a record five medals in 2000, including three golds, would become the first athlete convicted in the cases arising out of the four-year Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative investigation that has fueled a continuing series of steroid scandals in sports. Five men who manufactured, marketed or supplied the drugs to athletes have pleaded guilty, and some have served time in prison.

Jones is expected to plead guilty to one count of making false statements to federal agents about her use of performance-enhancing drugs and one count of making false statements to federal agents in connection with a separate check fraud case, the lawyers said.

European Central Bank Holds Rates Steady

The European Central Bank stuck by its upbeat view of the region’s economy on Thursday, leaving interest rates steady and indicating that more time was needed to assess the fallout of the credit squeeze that has roiled financial markets for months.

The president of the bank, Jean-Claude Trichet, also declined to utter a word that might influence currency markets and hinted that a similar stance would be appropriate for politicians who have been calling for action to curb the rising euro.

“The exchange rate is a very important question that calls for verbal discipline,” Trichet said at a news conference in Vienna after one of the two meetings the bank holds each year away from its headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany.

The central bank kept its main interest rate at 4 percent. In response, the euro barely budged, hovering around $1.41, just shy of the record level hit this week.