Afghan President Announces

Run in First Democratic Race

Afghan President Hamid Karzai officially announced his candidacy in the country's first democratic election and dropped one of his vice presidents from his ticket, raising fears in the capital that the spurned faction leader might react violently.

First Vice President Mohammed Fahim, defense minister and commander of a factional militia from northern Afghanistan's Panjshir Valley, was left off Karzai's slate.

Rules established for the presidential election, which is scheduled for Oct. 9, state that cabinet ministers cannot run for office unless they surrender their posts. Fahim was unwilling to give up leadership of the Defense Ministry. He had also refused to disarm his militia, a key component of the Northern Alliance coalition that allied with the United States in late 2001 to drive the radical Islamic Taliban movement from power.

Many foreign diplomats, aid officials and human rights groups had said they regarded Fahim's status as a key test of Karzai's seriousness about confronting and disarming Afghanistan's warlords as he sought a popular mandate to legitimize his 2 1/2-year interim administration.

By splitting with Fahim, Karzai finds himself facing a potentially tough race. Another key figure from the Panjshir Valley, Education Minister Yonus Qanooni, announced he would run against Karzai and that he had Fahim's backing.

-- Keith Richburg

Bush Looks to Act

On 9/11 Panel Advice

President Bush plans to begin making decisions about restructuring the nation's intelligence machinery within days and may enact some changes by executive order or regulatory action without waiting for Congress, White House officials said.

Aides suggested for the first time that despite the opposition of some in the administration, Bush is headed toward backing some variation of the Sept. 11 commission's call for a national intelligence director who would report directly to the president. Some White House officials have questioned whether the intelligence director would be considered independent if the position were under White House control. Aides said Bush is considering mechanisms to make the job less political, such as a term that does not overlap the president's.

The commission investigating the 2001 terrorist attacks delivered its recommendations for a broad reform of intelligence agencies last month.

The urgent pace, and the White House's willingness to discuss it, reflects the realization by Bush's aides that he is vulnerable to charges that he could have done more to protect the nation against terrorism, while saying leadership on the issue was central to his reelection strategy, Republican advisers said.

Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry sent a letter to the commission's leaders endorsing their blueprint, calling for "immediate action" and identifying 16 recommendations on which he said the "president can act alone."

-- Mike Allen

Muslim Charity Faces

Terrorist Funding Charge

The Justice Department indicted the nation's largest Muslim charity and seven of its top officials on charges of funneling $12.4 million over six years to individuals and groups associated with the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, a Palestinian group that the U.S. government says is a terrorist organization.

The 42-count federal indictment, filed in Dallas on Monday, said that the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development was set up in the late 1980s "to provide financial and material support to Hamas" and that several of its top officials are related to senior leaders of Hamas, which sponsors suicide bombings against Israelis.

The charges against the foundation, which, among other causes, funded orphanages and clinics in the Palestinian territories, include material support for terrorism, money laundering and income tax offenses. Among the individuals charged was Shukri Abu Baker, the charity's co-founder and chief executive.

Lawyers for Holy Land, which has been dormant since federal agents raided its suburban Dallas headquarters in late 2001, denied the government's charges, as they have criticized U.S. officials' earlier allegations of Hamas ties.

On Monday, the same day the federal grand jury in Dallas handed up the indictment, the foundation's lawyer asked the inspector general's office at the Justice Department to investigate the FBI for its work on the case. Lawyer John Boyd said the FBI has relied on "materially misleading" information, such as mistranslations of documents in Arabic and Hebrew.

-- John Mintz

Google Plans Pricey

Initial Public Offering

Google Inc., the most highly anticipated stock offering of the year, said it plans to go public at a price that would make the Internet search company worth more than General Motors Corp. in the stock market.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Google estimated a price range of $108 to $135 per share and said it would trade under the ticker symbol GOOG.

At that per-share price, the stock would be the most expensive in history for an initial public offering and would be about 150 times Google's annual per-share profit.

If the deal goes as planned, Google would have a stock market value of $32 billion, about $10 billion higher than General Motors Corp., the nation's biggest automaker; and in the range of Google's chief competitor in search, Yahoo Inc., which is larger and has a more diverse business.

While computer users around the world access Google to search the Internet for information free of charge, the company derives virtually all of its sales and profit from ads that accompany the search results.

Google disclosed that its profit soared in the first six months of 2004 to $143 million, compared with nearly $58 million in the same period last year. Sales reached $1.4 billion, up from about $560 million in the first half of 2003.

-- David Vise

Ex-Officials of Food Distributor

Charged With Conspiracy

Two former top officials of U.S. Foodservice Inc. of Columbia were indicted by a federal grand jury, charged with a three-year conspiracy to increase their own bonuses by overstating earnings by $800 million.

U.S. Foodservice, the nation's second-largest food distributor, is a subsidiary of Royal Ahold NV, which also owns Landover-based Giant Food LLC.

Former U.S. Foodservice chief financial officer Michael J. Resnick and former executive vice president for marketing Mark P. Kaiser were arraigned Wednesday on one count each of conspiracy, securities fraud and making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Each pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said that between 2000 and early 2003, the two executives routinely cut the food distribution company's reported expenses by overstating the financial rebates the firm received from suppliers with whom they conspired to mislead U.S. Foodservice's auditors.

Two lower-level purchasing executives, Timothy J. Lee and William F. Carter, have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme and are cooperating with authorities.

Lee also pleaded guilty to insider trading for tipping off U.S. Foodservice suppliers in 2000 that Ahold was going to pay a premium to acquire the then-independent firm. One of the vendors, Peter O. Marion, was separately charged with insider trading.

-- Brooke A. Masters

and Carrie Johnson