U.S. Ends Opposition

To ElBaradei Reelection

The Bush administration ended its opposition yesterday to Mohamed ElBaradei serving a third term as the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, which will allow the Egyptian lawyer to be reelected next week.

The decision ended a solitary U.S. campaign against ElBaradei, who has widespread international support despite the belief of Bush administration officials that he has been too soft on Iran over suspicions it is pursuing a nuclear bomb.

"We expect, when the vote comes up . . . that we will join the consensus," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met ElBaradei in Washington. ElBaradei is now likely to be unanimously approved by the 35 member-nations at an IAEA board meeting that starts Monday.

U.S. officials acknowledged Washington reversed its position because it had been unable to erode support for ElBaradei, who had also clashed with the United States because he did not agree with its assertions over Iraq's programs.

Army Again Denies It Tried

To Conceal Tillman Death

The Army issued a fresh denial yesterday that it tried to cover up the friendly-fire death of former pro football player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan. The Army said procedural mistakes were to blame for its slow acknowledgment of the circumstances.

Tillman's parents have criticized the Army for waiting weeks to tell them his death was accidental and did not result from enemy fire. They have accused the government of lying to cover up.

A statement from the Army's public affairs office said Tillman's Ranger unit did not quickly tell the Pentagon of the nature of his death because the unit's leaders were waiting until their investigation was finished. "While procedural misjudgments and mistakes contributed to an air of suspicion, no one intended to deceive the Tillman family or the public as to the cause of his death," the Army statement said. The Ranger unit's withholding of information "was an application of judgment, not a willful violation of regulation. Nevertheless, it was procedurally wrong."

Grassley Lays Out Plan

For Social Security Change

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) outlined proposals to raise the retirement age and to slow the growth of upper-income Americans' Social Security benefits to ensure the program's solvency. Grassley announced a general proposal to Sen. Craig Thomas (Wyo.) and other Republicans on the panel at a closed-door meeting, Thomas said. The chairman's intent was to spur Republicans to suggest ideas to be included in a bill to restructure Social Security, he said.

Under Grassley's proposal, benefits for the wealthy would be indexed to inflation rather than wages, resulting in a cut since wages historically rise faster than prices, Thomas said. He declined to give specifics on the proposal to raise the retirement age.

Grassley's attempt to finish a bill before August has been complicated by President Bush's proposal to divert Social Security funds to create private investment accounts.

-- From News Services