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WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers are pushing for tougher U.S. financial restrictions on North Korea even as the U.N. Security Council moves closer to a new resolution tightening international sanctions in response to Pyongyang's latest nuclear test.

The U.S. is expected to present a draft resolution to the council Tuesday, after reaching agreement with China following three weeks of deliberations on how to respond to the North's third atomic test, U.N. diplomats said.

That's a sign of Beijing's disapproval of its troublesome ally's behavior and will be welcomed in Washington. The text of the resolution has not been made public, but there has been speculation the U.N.'s most powerful body could move to toughen financial restrictions and cargo inspections, as well as blacklisting more companies and individuals.

Earlier Tuesday, North Korea's military vowed to cancel the 1953 Korean War cease-fire, saying Washington and others are going beyond mere economic sanctions and expanding into blunt aggression and military acts. The Korean People's Army Supreme Command also warned that it will block a communications line at the border village separating the two Koreas.

In the U.S., the foreign affairs panels of both houses of Congress will consider the Obama administration's next policy options to impede Pyongyang's development of missile and nuclear weapons that are increasingly viewed as a direct threat to the United States.

On Tuesday, the Republican-led House foreign affairs panel will examine how criminal activities support North Korea's authoritarian regime. That could buttress the case for leveraging the vast reach of the U.S. financial system to pressure international banks that deal with the North.

North Korea long has been believed to have derived hundreds of millions of dollars a year from criminal activities such as counterfeiting of cigarettes and U.S. currency, drug trafficking and insurance scams. Its sales of missiles and conventional weaponry are also outlawed under existing U.N. resolutions.

Targeted U.S. financial sanctions have been tried before and have had a significant impact but upset China, the North's main source of economic support and the country where it conducts most of its trade and financial transactions. The U.S. wants Beijing to exert more pressure on North Korea, and China's willingness to agree to more U.N sanctions shows its patience is wearing thin. It remains to be seen, however, whether diplomatic action on more sanctions translates into their implementation on the ground.

There is deep frustration in Congress over the international diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Pyongyang to end its nuclear weapons program in exchange for aid. The talks, hosted by China, have been stalled since 2009. A U.S. attempt to offer food aid in exchange for nuclear concessions last year fell flat.

New North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has adopted a confrontational approach toward Washington, although he did deign to meet last week with former professional basketball star Dennis Rodman.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said that since the Bill Clinton administration, U.S. policy toward North Korea has been a "bipartisan failure" based on the hope that North Korea would do the right thing.

The California Republican said Tuesday's hearing "will identify the best strategy for cutting off North Korea's access to hard currency in order to see real change."

Sung-Yoon Lee, professor of Korea studies at Tufts University, who was scheduled to testify, said the North's "shadowy palace economy" makes the Kim regime vulnerable to actions targeting money laundering. He suggests the Treasury Department require American banks to restrict their dealings with foreign individuals, banks, entities and even entire governments that are linked to North Korea's government.

"The Obama administration has apparently not decided on this approach, but the political climate is conducive to trying something like it," Lee said.

Marcus Noland, an expert on North Korea's economy at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, said the North's illicit activities continue, although their overall importance for the North's economy has declined as its international trade, particularly with China, has grown sharply. China accounts for 70 percent to 80 percent of North Korea's trade and totaled more than $7 billion in 2011.

In a rough estimate, Noland estimated that arms and illicit exports accounted for just under 10 percent of the merchandise the North traded in 2011, compared with more than 30 percent in 1999, when the economy was at a low point after years of famine. International interdiction efforts have also impeded the illicit trade, he said.

The North's improved financial standing could help explain its recent provocative behavior in conducting rocket and nuclear tests.

"If you are running a surplus and China is in your corner and won't implement U.N. embargos, then you can be provocative," Noland said. "But North Korea is heavily dependent on China, particularly for energy, and if China changes policy and literally cuts off the pipeline, then they're in real trouble."

In 2005, the U.S. Treasury sanctioned Banco Delta Asia, a bank in the Chinese territory of Macau which held about $25 million in North Korean funds. Treasury accused the bank of introducing counterfeit notes and laundering funds on behalf of North Korean enterprises linked to weapons of mass destruction programs.

The 2005 action caused a ripple effect among other banks worried about being closed out of the international financial system. Yet the sanction annoyed Beijing — as well as enraging Pyongyang — and proved complicated to undo when nuclear negotiations with North Korea finally got back on track.

The U.S. could also target the North's shipping by declaring the country a criminal enterprise, making vessels carrying its goods difficult to insure and subject to search and seizure, Noland said.

Associated Press writer Edith Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
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CHICAGO (AP) — Eight former Drug Enforcement Administration chiefs say the federal government needs to act now or it might lose the chance to nullify Colorado and Washington's laws legalizing recreational marijuana use.

The onetime DEA heads plan to issue joint statements Tuesday saying the Obama administration has reacted too slowly and should immediately sue to force the states to rescind the legislation.

The Associated Press received an advance copy of the statement Monday.

One of the former DEA administrators, Peter Bensinger, told the AP that the more time goes by, the harder it'll be to stop the two states. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

Bensinger, who lives in the Chicago area, said the government must immediately sue the states or risk creating "a domino effect" in which other states follow suit.

"My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: do nothing and say nothing," said Bensinger. "If they don't act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told a meeting of state attorneys general last week that he is still reviewing the laws but that his review is winding down. Asked Monday for a comment on the criticism from the former DEA administrators, Holder spokeswoman Allison Price would only say, "The Department of Justice is in the process of reviewing those initiatives."

The department's review has been under way since shortly after last fall's elections. It could sue to block the states from issuing licenses to marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, on the grounds that doing so conflicts with federal drug law. Alternatively, Holder could decide not to mount a court challenge.

The ex-DEA heads are issuing the statements though the Florida-based Save Our Society from Drugs, a national group lobbying against legalization. One of the group's spokesmen is based in Chicago.

The former DEA administrators are Bensinger, John Bartels, Robert Bonner, Thomas Constantine, Asa Hutchinson, John Lawn, Donnie Marshall and Francis Mullen. They served for both Republican and Democratic administrations.

Holder is scheduled to appear Wednesday before a U.S. Senate judiciary committee hearing. The former DEA chiefs want senators to question Holder on the legalization issue.

Advocates of legalization have welcomed Colorado and Washington's new laws, arguing that criminalizing drugs creates serious though unintended social problems. The ex-DEA heads say they disagree with that view.

After votes last fall, Colorado and Washington became the first states to legalize marijuana's recreational use — putting federal authorities in a quandary over how, or whether, to respond.

Washington state officials responsible for creating a regulated marijuana system have said they are moving forward with a timetable of issuing producer licenses by August.

Bensinger — who served as DEA administrator under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan — said the supremacy of federal law over state law when it comes to drug laws isn't in doubt.

"This is a no-brainer," he said. "It is outrageous that a lawsuit hasn't been filed in federal court yet."

___ Follow Michael Tarm at www.twitter.com/mtarm
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VATICAN CITY (AP) — Cardinals said Monday they want to talk to Vatican managers about allegations of corruption and cronyism within the top levels of the Catholic Church before they elect the next pope, evidence that a scandal over leaked papal documents is casting a shadow over the conclave and setting up one of the most unpredictable papal elections in recent times.

The Vatican said 107 of the 115 voting-age cardinals attended the first day of pre-conclave meetings, at which cardinals organize the election, discuss the problems of the church and get to know one another before voting.

The red-capped "princes" of the church took an oath of secrecy and decided to pen a letter of "greeting and gratitude" to Benedict XVI, whose resignation has thrown the church into turmoil amid a torrent of scandals inside and out of the Vatican.

"I would imagine that as we move along there will be questioning of cardinals involved in the governing of the Curia to see what they think has to be changed, and in that context anything can come up," said U.S. Cardinal Francis George.

The Holy See's administrative shortcomings were thrust into stark relief last year with the publication of documents stolen from Benedict's desk that exposed the petty infighting, turf battles and allegations of corruption, nepotism and cronyism in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

The pope's butler was convicted of stealing the papers and leaking them to a journalist; he eventually received a papal pardon.

The emeritus pope, meanwhile, remained holed up at the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo, his temporary retirement home while the discussions on picking his successor kick into gear in Rome.

No date has been set yet for the conclave and one may not be decided on officially for a few more days; the dean of the College of Cardinals has said a date won't be finalized until all the cardinals have arrived.

Eight voting-age cardinals are still en route to Rome; some had previously scheduled speaking engagements, others were due in over the coming days, the Vatican said. Their absence, however, didn't otherwise delay the conclave's preparations.

Speculation has mounted that the conclave might begin around March 11, with the aim of having a new pope installed by March 17, the Sunday before Palm Sunday and the start of Holy Week.

With 115 electors, 77 votes are needed to reach the two-thirds majority to be elected pope.

Those who were in Rome prayed together Monday, chatted over coffee and took an oath to maintain "rigorous secrecy with regard to all matters in any way related to the election of the Roman Pontiff."

The core agenda item is to set the date for the conclave and put in place the procedures to prepare for it, including closing the Sistine Chapel to visitors and getting the Vatican hotel cleared out and swept for bugs or other electronic monitoring devices, lest anyone try to listen in on the cardinals' secret conversations.

Yet the first day of discussion was rocked by new revelations of scandal after Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien admitted that his "sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal."

O'Brien last week resigned as archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and said he wouldn't participate in the conclave after four men came forward with allegations that he had acted inappropriately with them — the first time a cardinal has stayed away from a conclave because of personal scandal.

The Vatican on Monday refused to confirm whether it was investigating O'Brien, even though the Scottish church's press office said the allegations had been forwarded to the Vatican and that it expected Rome would pursue the case.

Pressed to respond to reports of a fifth accuser who reportedly approached the Vatican directly in October with accusations, a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Thomas Rosica, read O'Brien's statement admitting to sexual misconduct and said the Vatican would say no more.

The Vatican and cardinals attending the session said the O'Brien case didn't come up during formal or informal conversations.

"It's a tragic moment for him," George said.

At a briefing discussing the priorities for the future pontificate, George said the next pope will have to follow canon law and keep priests who molested children out of parishes.

"He obviously has to accept the universal code of the church which is zero tolerance for anyone who has ever abused a minor child and therefore may not remain in public ministry in the church," George said. "That has to be accepted. I don't think that will be a problem."

Separately, the Vatican is still reeling from the fallout of the scandal over leaked papal documents, and the investigation by three cardinals into who was behind it.

American cardinals seem particularly keen to get to the bottom of the Vatican dysfunction, and they have had access to a very knowledgeable tutor, Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Vatican's ambassador to Washington.

Vigano's letters to the pope were the most explosive leaks of documents last year; in them, Vigano pleaded with Benedict not to be transferred after exposing alleged corruption in the awarding of Vatican contracts that cost the Holy See millions of euros (dollars).

Vigano was named the Vatican's ambassador to Washington, and as such has been able to give U.S. cardinals a clear-eyed view of the true state of the Vatican, said Corriere della Sera commentator Massimo Franco.

"They have appreciated him very much because he doesn't read the Vatican situation with a rosy lens, a rosy view," Franco said in an interview.

In his new book "The Crisis of the Vatican Empire," Franco paints a portrait of a Vatican completely falling apart, with financial scandals at its bank, backstabbing among its ruling class and the sex abuse scandal discrediting the church on the global stage.

"If we think of the pope, in a way the pope decided to sacrifice himself because he couldn't change anything," Franco said.

Coupled with the upheaval of Benedict's resignation, the scandals have contributed to create one of the most unclear papal elections in recent times.

"It will be a very open conclave with a very unpredictable outcome," Franco said.

In one of his last audiences before resigning, Benedict gave the three cardinals who investigated the leaks the go-ahead to answer their colleagues' questions about the results of their investigation.

"There are members of the College of Cardinals who are interested in having information that has to do with the situation in the Curia and the church in general and will ask to be informed by their colleagues," the Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said.

___ Trisha Thomas and Rachel Zoll contributed to this report.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield at www.twitter.com/nwinfield
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CHICAGO (AP) - The calendar may read March, but a snowstorm has much of the Upper Midwest looking like December.

A snowstorm that moved through parts of the Dakotas and Minnesota yesterday is zeroing in on Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana, with the brunt of the storm expected to hit early today.

Up to 10 inches of snow could fall in the Chicago area, which would easily make this storm the area's largest of the season.

This storm could be particularly problematic for commuters. The National Weather Service says it could snow during both the morning and evening rush hours in Chicago. Emergency officials urge those who don't have to drive to keep their cars in the garage in favor of public transportation.
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