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WTC rebuilding timeline might extend

Stung by criticism that the initial six proposals for redeveloping the World Trade Center are too commercial, the officials charged with rebuilding the site say they might extend the timeline for selecting a final plan.

"The goal is to get it right," Matthew Higgins, a spokesman for the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., said Sunday. "Now that we've received public input we have to evaluate how to refine the plans to better reflect what people hope to see in Lower Manhattan."

Many of the 4,000 people who attended a meeting Saturday expressed dissatisfaction with the six plans released last week.

"They're getting too restrictive too soon," said Priya Matthew of Harrison, N.J. "We're going to end up with something very mediocre."

Link Hussein to al-Qaida to

take him out, senator says

WASHINGTON _ A proven link between Iraq and the al-Qaida terror network would give President Bush authority to remove Saddam Hussein by force, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Sunday.

Such a connection, Sen. Joseph Biden said, would satisfy requirements of September's legislation that authorized all force necessary to retaliate against al-Qaida and any of its sponsors.

The war in Afghanistan, which has ended the rule of the Taliban militia and dispersed al-Qaida's top leaders, is being fought under those rules.

Biden was asked on Fox News Sunday whether Iraq's president could face a similar fate if he were found in league with Osama bin Laden's terrorists. "If (Bush) can prove that, yes, he would have the authority in my view," Biden said.

Lynne Weil, spokeswoman for the Senate Foreign Relations committee, later said the resolution Biden referred to "spells out clearly what type of links" were covered and Biden had not meant to suggest that a "mere link" by some tenuous definition would be covered.

More refugees return than

expected, so aid suffers

KABUL, Afghanistan _ More than 1.3-million refugees have returned to Afghanistan _ more than three times the number expected _ forcing the United Nations to cut aid programs because of the shortage of money, a U.N. official said Sunday.

Maki Shinohara, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, said the dramatic flow of returning refugees, one of the largest in the history, has "sapped UNHCR's $271-million budget for Afghanistan."

Shinohara said the agency lacks about $65-million to get through the end of the year and that cash contributions were urgently needed.

She said the agency has refocused its operations on four priority areas _ protection of refugees, travel assistance, giving them basic supplies until they are able to provide for themselves, and housing and water. That means the U.N. agency cannot provide help with education, medical assistance and other programs it had hoped to establish.

The United Nations originally estimated that 400,000 of the estimated 4-million Afghans living abroad would return this year. UNHCR has raised its prediction to more than 2-million.

Also . . .

LINDH READY TO TALK: John Walker Lindh is ready to cooperate with terrorism investigators, as he promised to do in return for a lighter sentence, but he might have little information to give, his lawyer said Sunday.

"The fact is he doesn't know a whole lot, but he will cooperate with them fully. If he can save American lives, he will do it," James Brosnahan said on CNN's Late Edition.

GOVERNOR CLARIFIES PERMISSION REQUEST: The governor of Kandahar province Sunday said he hopes U.S. troops will continue to pursue al-Qaida and Taliban fighters, and said reports that he had called for U.S. operations to be approved by Afghan authorities were a misunderstanding.

Gov. Gul Agha Sherzai met with Lt. Gen. Dan McNeill, the commander of coalition forces, and expressed strong support for U.S. operations. Sherzai said his earlier remarks had been mistranslated and that he was asking only for U.S. consultation on operations.

NEW THREAT ISSUED IN PAKISTAN: A former Taliban commander says militants led by al-Qaida want to strike quickly against U.S. interests in Pakistan in retaliation for the death sentence in the Daniel Pearl murder case.

"There will be another big attack in Pakistan, and it will happen soon," Fazul Rabi Said-Rahman, once the top Taliban military commander in eastern Afghanistan, told the Associated Press.

The State Department has advised Americans not to travel to Pakistan and urged U.S. citizens there to leave, citing the Pearl verdict.

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