Bush Postpones Africa Trip

President Bush, preparing for a possible war with Iraq, postponed a planned trip to Africa next month, citing "domestic and international considerations."

"President Bush will reschedule his January 2003 trip to Africa until later in the year due to a combination of domestic and international considerations," the White House said in a statement yesterday.

A senior U.S. official said Bush was staying home to monitor the situation in Iraq as well as to begin work on his domestic agenda, including outstanding spending bills, with a new Senate majority leader.

The official said the postponement should not be taken as a step closer to war with Iraq, saying Washington remained committed to a "deliberative course" to carrying out its demands on Iraqi disarmament.

Bush Helps Initiate Iran Radio

Offering U.S. friendship if Iran would "embrace freedom," President Bush helped launch a radio service aimed at young Iranians. Seventy percent of Iran's population is under 30.

"If Iran respects its international obligations and embraces freedom and tolerance, it will have no better friend than the United States of America," Bush said in a broadcast on Radio Farda, a U.S.-run Persian-language radio service that began broadcasting to Iran on Thursday.

Bush has declared Iran part of an "axis of evil" that threatens to spread weapons of mass destruction, and the United States this month accused Iran of building two facilities that could be used to produce a nuclear weapon. But Washington has also sought to encourage pro-democracy forces in Iran, including an increasingly restive student movement.

Venezuela Warning Issued

The State Department issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens in Venezuela, citing concerns over deterioration of the political and security situation there. Non-emergency employees of the U.S. Embassy and their families were asked to return immediately to the United States. Those traveling in Venezuela were urged to depart.

In other advisories, the department continued to urge U.S. citizens to consider the risks of travel to Jordan but said it had withdrawn its advice against visiting Tajikistan even though groups linked to al Qaeda still posed risks in the former Soviet republic.

For the Record

* Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wants the next round of military base closures, in 2005, to cut as much surplus as the previous four rounds combined, a senior aide said. Raymond DuBois, the deputy undersecretary of defense for installations and environment, gave no specific figures and stressed that no military bases would be exempted in advance from potential closure.

* Physicians' Medicare payments will decline less than than expected next year -- 4.4 percent instead of 5.1 percent -- but Congress must act to prevent further erosion in doctor payments, Medicare Administrator Tom Scully said. Physicians took a 5.4 percent cut for 2002 and will lose an estimated $11 billion over the next three years, according to the American Medical Association.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press and Reuters