* Alma Powell, the wife of Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Princess Haifa, wife of Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan, headlined yesterday's 2 1/2-hour lunch for 80 hosted by Debbie Dingell, wife of Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), and the Rev. Kathleen Card, wife of White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, at the Four Seasons Hotel. Diplomatic and political spouses talked over Arab-American relations on the eve of war, and the Saudi princess insisted: "Don't let anybody tell you that the Arabs don't like Americans. We love the Americans."

* The Radio & Television Correspondents' Association decided yesterday to delay Thursday's gala dinner at the Hilton Washington until June 4 -- when the war with Iraq, presumably, will be over and done with. "We realized that a lot of our members would be working and some invited guests wouldn't be able to attend, so we thought the best thing to do would be to postpone," explained association chairman Annie Tin, C-SPAN's congressional producer.

* Fired Treasury secretary Paul O'Neill gave U2's Bono a big hug Monday night as 1,200 denizens of official Washington -- everyone from Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) -- eagerly welcomed the Irish rocker to the American Ireland Fund's St. Patrick's Day dinner at the National Building Museum. "It's an honor to be in this city at this time," said Bono, who accepted the group's humanitarian award for his work to reduce Third World debt and fight AIDS globally. He tactfully avoided talk of war. "The people here have let me in, which is extraordinary because once I'm let in, I'm hard to get out! It's a hard look for rock stars to be seen with politicians. To be fair, it's uncool for both of us!"

* In our continuing series of interviews with the parents of movie stars, we talked to physician William Close, the 78-year-old father of Glenn Close, who has practiced medicine in Big Piney, Wyo., for the past quarter-century. "I still make house calls," said Close, who will be introduced today by his famous daughter and then give a speech to a confab of medical students in Crystal City. "My message to them will be: 'Don't let people tell you that the charm and the challenge of being a doctor is gone.' "

Perle de Provence

* When he's not jousting with Seymour Hersh and Patrick Buchanan, foreign policy hawk Richard Perle is bad-mouthing French refusals to support the United States and use force against Saddam Hussein. "France is no longer the ally it once was," the chairman of the Pentagon's influential Defense Policy Board recently told the Jerusalem Post. "I have long thought that there were forces in France intent on reducing the American role in the world."

So we were intrigued this week when a Washington insider reminded us that Perle is an ardent Francophile. So much so that he and his wife, Leslie, spend as much time as they can smack-dab in the middle of the French countryside, at their farmhouse in Provence with its lovely overlook of a vineyard.

"My wife keeps saying to shut up about the French or they're going to burn down our house," said the 61-year-old Perle, who bought his rustic vacation home in a charming village in 1982, and tries to visit four to five times every year. "In fact, the French are not like that at all. France's foreign policy is conducted by its presidents, and this is a Jacques Chirac policy, not a French policy. I have had a surprising number of senior French officials and some parliamentarians tell me privately that they are horrified at what Chirac has been doing. I think French anti-Americanism is largely confined to a small circle of bureaucrats and politicians."

We sure hope that's not just wishful thinking.

Bush, the President of His Class

Texas-talkin' George W. Bush -- Yale Class of 1968 and member of Skull & Bones -- sometimes gives folks the idea that he's deeply ambivalent about his privileged roots in the Ivy League and the Eastern Establishment. Not so, says his college classmate and fellow Bonesman Donald Etra: "President Bush loves Yale."

So don't be surprised if Bush hosts a May 29 White House soiree for his classmates in advance of their 35-year reunion in New Haven. We hear that Chicago lawyer William Baker is busily organizing the glittering event, which could include such Bush classmates as Bill Clinton's deputy secretary of state, Strobe Talbott, Hollywood bad boy Oliver Stone and our friend Scott Armstrong, the liberal national security maven and severe critic of Bush foreign policy.

"I would attend a White House party if it was something that would honor my class," Armstrong told us. "I take it that it would not be held to honor George Bush."

"This proposition was made by an inept individual. We will go one better by calling for Bush to leave power with his family."

-- Uday Hussein, elder son of Saddam Hussein, responding yesterday to President Bush's demand that the dictator and his sons leave Iraq or else.