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Thursday, November 10

Editor's Note: CNN News Update is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents and producers and compiled by Wires.CNN.

Cargo plane crashes in Afghanistan; casualties reported

(CNN) -- A cargo plane crashed near Kabul, Afghanistan, on Friday, causing an unknown number of injuries, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

According to Capt. Micoele Cortese, it was unclear how many people were on board. There are casualties, he said, but officials did not know how many people were injured or the severity of the injuries.

A team has been sent to the crash site, about 30 km (19 miles) northwest of Kabul, for search and rescue operations, he said. The crash occurred between 11 a.m. and noon local time (1:30-2:30 a.m. ET). (Posted 4:59 a.m.)

Death toll in Jordan bombings rises to 57

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- The death toll from three suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman rose to 57 on Friday, according to a report from Jordan's official Petra news agency.

The al Qaeda in Iraq group, headed by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has claimed responsibility on a Web site for Wednesday's attacks at the Radisson, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels that killed the three bombers and wounded 102 people.

The death toll increased Thursday night to 57 -- 60 including the three bombers -- following the death of Mustafa Akkad, a Syrian-born movie director whose work includes "The Message," according to Jordan's official Petra News Agency. Akkad and his daughter were victims of the Grand Hyatt bombing; his daughter had previously died. Ninety-five people remained hospitalized Friday from injuries sustained in the bombings, Petra reported. (Posted 4:38 a.m.)

Rice in Iraq on surprise visit

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived early Friday in Mosul, Iraq, on a surprise visit, a U.S. embassy representative said.

Rice was greeted by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq.

After spending a few hours in Mosul, Rice left for Baghdad, where she was expected to meet with Iraqi and U.S. military officials as well as embassy officials, the embassy said. (Updated 3:43 a.m.)

7 'suspected terrorists' die in raid on safe houses in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces raided a suspected terrorist safe house in Baghdad Thursday, killing seven members of what was believed to be a cell of al Qaeda in Iraq, a U.S. military statement said.

"The safe house was suspected to be an operational base for a suicide bomber cell with an alleged foreign fighter who was to carry out an attack in the near future," the statement said. "The terrorists were armed with rocket propelled grenades, machine guns, and explosives. One of the armed terrorists killed in the raid was also wearing a suicide bomber vest."

Forces raided two other suspected sites, but no details were provided. (Posted 3:23 a.m.)

Two U.S. soldiers, Marine die in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers died Thursday of wounds received from small arms fire while conducting combat operations near al-Khalidiya, the military said early Friday, and a Marine died of wounds received in an improvised explosive device (IED) attack.

The soldiers were assigned to the 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward). No further details of the incident were released.

The Marine, who was assigned to Regimental Combat Team 2, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward), died while conducting combat operations in Karabila on Thursday during Operation Steel Curtain.

The names of the soldiers and Marine were withheld pending notification of relatives. Several U.S. Army units are attached to the II Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The deaths bring to 2,063 the number of U.S. troops killed in Iraq. (Updated 3:35 a.m.)

First phase of latest round of six-party talks concludes in Beijing

BEIJING (CNN) -- The first phase of the fifth round of six-party talks focusing on North Korea's nuclear weapons program concluded Friday in Beijing after three days, with involved nations saying they are ready to move forward.

The parties -- China, South Korea, North Korea, the United States, Russia and Japan -- have agreed to hold the second phase of talks "at the earliest possible date," Chinese delegation head Wu Dawei said in a statement read at the closing ceremony, according to a report from China's Xinhua news agency.

In September, during the last round of talks, North Korea agreed in principle to give up its entire nuclear program, including weapons -- a landmark agreement that was announced in a joint statement.

In return, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and South Korea "stated their willingness" to provide energy assistance to North Korea, as well as promote economic cooperation and to talk about a civil nuclear energy program for North Korea at "an appropriate time." (posted 2:50 a.m.)

IEDs slow Marines in Karabila during Operation Steel Curtain

HUSAYBA, Iraq (CNN) -- As Operation Steel Curtain moved into day seven, the U.S. and Iraqi militaries had little direct contact with insurgents early Friday, but faced plenty of danger on the streets of Karabila, CNN's Arwa Damon reported.

According to Damon, who is embedded with U.S. troops taking part in the operation, advances through western Karabila slowed to a crawl as troops picked through a "literal minefield" of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). One Marine commander called the IEDs a "very effective enemy," saying they "can lay in wait for days, months and years," not needing food or water.

Marines found at least one bomb-making factory, as well as propane tanks and mortar rounds primed to explode.

Thursday afternoon, a Marine and an Iraqi soldier were wounded when an IED detonated. In addition, Marines and Iraqi soldiers discovered three air-to-surface missiles hidden underneath a room filled with hay.

During the first phase of Steel Curtain, troops focused on Husayba, a town insurgents are believed to have used as a base -- and a conduit into and out of Syria. Major sweeps there ended Monday. (Posted 2:07 a.m.)

Rove: Conservatives 'will win' debate over judges

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's chief political adviser Karl Rove told a conservative legal organization Thursday that conservatives are "winning the battle of ideas on almost every front" -- including making huge gains in the fight over the judiciary.

"The outcome of that debate will shape the course of human events," Rove told the Federalist Society. He added, "We are now seeing the fruits of your good works and the good works of many others."

Rove said the recent addition of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to the highest court, and the nomination of U.S. Circuit Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor, should make conservatives "optimistic and hopeful." (posted 12:35 a.m.)

FDA warns birth control patch users of higher blood clot risk

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Food and Drug Administration Thursday warned millions of women who use the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch that they are being exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than with a typical birth control pill, which could put them at higher risk for blood clots.

The labels on the medication will be updated with the warning, the FDA said.

Most daily birth control pills contain 35 micrograms of estrogen. The patch releases ethinyl estradiol, an estrogen hormone, and norelgestromin, a progestin hormone, through the skin into the blood stream.

The Ortho Evra patch only needs to be changed once a week and is the only patch approved for birth control. The FDA said in a written statement that doctors and patients should weigh the increased exposure to estrogen against the chance of pregnancy if a birth control pill is not taken daily.

Ortho Evra is made by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals. (Posted 10:24 p.m.)

Miller 'stunned' by criticism from Times colleagues

(CNN) -- Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller said she was "stunned and saddened" by stinging criticism from other Times staffers after her grand jury testimony in the CIA leak investigation, but she insisted her conscience was clear and she "wouldn't change much" about her actions.

Miller, whose retirement from the Times was announced Wednesday, also told CNN's Larry King, in an exclusive interview Thursday, that she was leaving "with no regrets and continued great affection and respect for the paper."

"I'm ready to move on and not to hold grudges, and I have kind of a quaint, old-fashioned idea that you don't trash colleagues and you don't trash an institution you're working for," said Miller, who spent 28 years at the Times.

"I'm not going to trash former colleagues either, or the institution that I've worked for, happily, for so many years."

And while she has retired from the Times, Miller said she plans to continue working as a reporter, although she has not yet made any specific plans for her future. "I'm going to relax and not make any decisions about what I'm going to do," she said. (Posted 10:22 p.m.)

Bush to answer Democratic criticisms of pre-Iraqi war intelligence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will respond Friday to the most recent Democratic claims that his administration manipulated intelligence about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, a senior administration official said Thursday.

During a Veterans Day appearance in Tobyhanna, Pa., the president will "directly take on some of these false attacks that have been recently brought up by some Democratic leaders," the senior administration official said.

"It's legitimate to criticize decisions or conduct (of the war), but it is not legitimate to make false claims about how the war began."

National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters earlier Thursday that the thrust of Bush's speech "is to continue to talk to the American people about the war on terror, the nature of the enemy, what is at stake." (Posted 9:35 p.m.)

CIA doubted key al Qaeda-Iraq links before Powell's U.N. speech

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A January 2003 CIA report raised doubts about claims that al Qaeda sent operatives to Iraq to acquire chemical and biological weapons -- dramatic assertions that were repeated by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell the next month at the United Nations.

A CIA document obtained Thursday by CNN outlined the history of that claim, which originated with a captured al Qaeda operative who later recanted it. His reversal prompted the CIA to order all prior intelligence suggesting Iraq trained al Qaeda personnel in chemical and biological warfare "recalled and re-issued" in February 2004.

That account emerged as the White House is trying to counter new allegations from congressional Democrats that the administration cited faulty intelligence to argue for the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

According to the CIA document, the captured al Qaeda operative, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, claimed al Qaeda sent operatives to Iraq to get weapons of mass destruction and related training. But in January 2003, a CIA report noted the "detainee was not in a position to know if any training had taken place."

In his speech to the United Nations, Powell did not mention al-Libi by name, but described him as a senior terrorist operative who "has told his story."

"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence," Powell said. (Posted 9:18 p.m.)

Army exceeds recruitment goal for October

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. Army exceeded its first monthly recruiting goal of the 2006 fiscal year in October, after missing its overall 2005 goal for active-duty sign-ups, Pentagon officials said Thursday.

The Army also exceeded its October goals for the National Guard and Army Reserve.

The Army sought to sign up at least 4,700 new active-duty soldiers in October, but attracted 4,925 -- 5 percent over its goal, Pentagon data shows. The numbers are an optimistic sign for the Army, which missed its recruiting goal of 80,000 by about 7,000 people last year.

At one point, the Army had four straight months of failing to meet its goals. The federal government's 2006 fiscal year began Oct. 1. -- From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 8:55 p.m.)

U.S. needs new strategy, more troops in Iraq, McCain says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States needs more troops, not fewer, in Iraq and a sweeping change in strategy to win the two-year-old war there, Sen. John McCain said Thursday.

"The president and his advisers understand that, and I praise their resolve. They know that the consequences of failure are unacceptable and that the benefits of success in Iraq remain profound," McCain, R-Ariz., told an audience at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

"And yet, at the same time, there's an undeniable sense that things are slipping -- more violence on the ground, declining domestic support for the war, growing incantations among Americans that there is no end in sight."

McCain said American troops need to focus on creating safe zones within Iraq rather than chasing insurgents from town to town without enough troops to secure those towns once the insurgents are pushed out. (Posted 8:50 p.m.)

House GOP leaders scuttle budget vote, after moderates balk at cuts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Republican leaders Thursday were forced to abruptly cancel a planned vote on a budget bill cutting $50 billion in spending, after it became clear they couldn't round up enough votes to pass it.

The decision by GOP leaders came after moderate Republicans resisted cuts to a range of social programs, including Medicaid, student loans and food stamps This was the first big test for the House Republican leadership since Rep. Tom DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader in September, after his indictment on money laundering and conspiracy charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

House Majority Leader Roy Blunt, R-Mo., admitted the leadership team was "not quite where we need to be to go to the floor." He said that the decision to put off a vote was because members needed to get back to their districts for Veterans Day events.

Blunt said he needed to do some work getting members "more comfortable" with what is in the bill, and he said he would bring the measure back for vote next week. -- From CNN Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh (Posted 8:47 p.m.)

Specter urges Alito to clear the air about 2003 ruling; Alito responds

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito responded Thursday to a top Senate Republican's urging that he quickly address questions about a 2003 ruling involving a financial firm where Alito had large amounts of money invested.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said two experts his committee consulted found nothing improper about Alito's decision to hear the case as a federal appellate judge in New Jersey. But in a letter to Alito, he urged the nominee "to make a full public response" on the issue before opponents of his nomination seize it.

Alito responded in a Thursday afternoon letter, telling Specter that the judge had been "unduly restrictive" when he pledged in his appellate court nomination hearings to skip cases involving the financial firm, mutual fund giant Vanguard, and that he had no conflict of interest in hearing the case.

"To the best of my knowledge, I have not ruled on a case for which I had a legal or ethical obligation to recuse myself during my 15 years on the federal bench," he wrote. (Posted 6:14 p.m.)

After election setbacks, Schwarzenegger says he'll cooperate with Democrats

(CNN) -- Two days after being spanked by voters in a special referendum election he called, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger conceded Thursday that he needs to work more cooperatively with Democrats in the Legislature -- and be "more patient" in pursuing his reform of state government.

"The people sent a message," Schwarzenegger told reporters after what he described as an "upbeat" meeting with legislative leaders in Sacramento. "The people are my partners. I've always relied on the people and listened very carefully to the people."

He joked that if he ever made another Terminator movie, "I would have Terminator travel back in time to tell Arnold not have have a special election." (Posted 5:54 p.m.)

Bush visits Jordanian Embassy, says enemy 'must be defeated'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and the first lady visited the Jordanian Embassy in Washington Thursday to express their sympathies in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Amman, with the president saying those behind the bombings "must be defeated."

"May God bless the people of Jordan during this difficult time. Please know the American people join you in prayer and spirit," Bush wrote in a condolence book at the embassy. First lady Laura Bush added simply, "And with love and sympathy to the people of Jordan." (Posted 5:45 p.m.)

2 Americans killed in Jordan attacks, 4 wounded

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two Americans were killed in Wednesday's bombings in Amman and four others were wounded, including two seriously, two State Department officials said Thursday. They said the two who were killed were a Syrian-American and a Jordanian-American.

These officials said the State Department has been in touch with the families of the victims. (Posted 5:34 p.m.)

New offer could let Iran run nuclear plants on Russian-produced fuel

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran could produce nuclear power using uranium enriched in Russia under a draft proposal aimed at breaking an impasse over Tehran's nuclear program, a Western diplomat familiar with the plan said Thursday.

The plan would let Iran produce electricity from nuclear reactors, as Iranian officials say they want to do. But the reactors would use Russian-produced fuel that could not be used to produce nuclear weapons, the diplomat told CNN.

U.S. and European officials hope that idea will break a diplomatic impasse over Iran's nuclear program, which the Bush administration says could be used to build an atomic bomb. (Posted 5:15 p.m.)

Atty. General Gonzales vows to press China on counterfeiting, piracy

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced Thursday he will travel to China next week and vowed to press for much tougher enforcement of product pirating and intellectual property theft by Chinese law enforcement officials.

"We will not tolerate crimes that harm American businesses and consumers, and that is a message that I look forward to sharing with our international partners -- especially when I travel to China next week," Gonzales said.

He has scheduled an eight-day, four-nation Asian trip that will include meetings in China, Australia, and two as-yet-unannounced destinations.

Gonzales also called for tougher action at home by announcing a legislative package that asks Congress to strengthen penalties for repeat copyright criminals and expand protections for creative endeavors. The proposals also call for updating laws to keep pace with technology that allows the market to be flooded with cheap knock-offs and fake products. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 4:35 p.m.)

Two Former Taliban Governors shot dead in Peshawar

LAHORE, Pakistan (CNN) -- Mullah Abdul Mannan Hanafi and Mullah Mohammad Akbar, former Taliban provincial governors and military commanders in Afghanistan, were shot dead in an attack early Tuesday morning in Peshawar, Police sources told CNN.

The sources told CNN that they had no information about the identity or motive of the gunmen. The Peshawar Police said no arrests have been made in connection with the two killings.

Hanafi, also known as Abdul Mannan Khawajazai Hanafi, had served as governor of Samangan, Sar-i-pul and Badghis provinces during Taliban regime. He was the military commander in Bamiyan province when the Taliban demolished the two giant Buddha statues there, intelligence sources told CNN. Akbar was the governor of Ghor province. --From CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi (Posted 4:19 p.m.)

Jordanians protest al-Zarqawi: 'Death to him!'

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Three suicide bombings that killed at least 56 people at three hotels in Amman sparked furious protests in the Jordanian capital Thursday against al Qaeda in Iraq after the group claimed responsibility for the bombings.

"Burn in hell, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi!" hundreds of Jordanians chanted. "Death to him!"

Al-Zarqawi is the Jordanian-born terrorist leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and the most wanted man in that country with a $25 million reward for his head. His group posted a claim of responsibility on a Web site for Wednesday's attacks at the Radisson, Grand Hyatt and Days Inn hotels that killed at least 56 people, the three bombers and wounded 102 others. Most of the casualties occurred at the Radisson, where the bomber detonated himself in the middle of a Jordanian wedding party.

The Web site said the attacks were carried out on "retreats that were planted in the land of Muslims in Amman." (Posted 4:04 p.m.)

New Jersey spruce finds new home at Rockefeller Center

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Rockefeller Center received its annual holiday season centerpiece Thursday morning -- a 74-foot-tall Christmas tree from Wayne, N.J.

The 9-ton Norway spruce was lifted by a crane and propped into place at 8 a.m.

The evergreen had been cut down Wednesday morning and transported to Manhattan in the flatbed of a 115-foot trailer, said Rubenstein Associates, the event's planners. The tree is about 50 years old, according to Arnold Raquet, 73, the tree's owner. --From CNN News Assistant Katy Byron (Posted 3:59 p.m.)

Flu season mild so far, gives Americans time to find flu shot

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Spot shortages of flu vaccine in some areas of the country are expected to be resolved soon, as more vaccine becomes available, the nation's top infectious disease specialist said Thursday.

The fact that this year's flu season is mild so far "gives us time to get the vaccine out there," said Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, there is no widespread flu activity anywhere in the country, she told reporters.

By the end of the month, more than 81 million doses could have been made available, and the year's total could exceed the record of 83 million doses, she said.

Gerberding blamed the problems some doctors and flu-shot clinics have had getting vaccine on the inability of one vaccine company -- Chiron Corp., of Emeryville, Calif. -- to make as much as it had projected. (Posted 3:25 p.m.)

Small contingent of FBI crime lab personnel headed to Jordan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A small contingent of FBI crime laboratory personnel left Washington for Amman, Jordan, Thursday to help in the probe of terrorist bombings at three U.S.-owned hotels, FBI officials said.

"At the request of the Jordanian government, the FBI is sending a small element of personnel from our laboratory division to assist with their investigation," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. --From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 2:54 p.m.)

8 French police officers suspended after allegations youth was beaten

PARIS (CNN) -- Eight police officers were suspended Thursday pending an investigation into allegations two officers beat a youth Monday night while six others looked on.

The French Interior Ministry said that Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy had ordered the suspensions. The incident took place in Seine-Saint-Denis, a Paris suburb next to Clichy-Sous-Bois, the suburb that has seen some of the worst of the rioting in France.

A medical report said the youth suffered bruises on his face and right foot.

The suspensions came as French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged that France must do more to solve the problems that have caused 14 straight nights of rioting. (Posted 2:14 p.m.)

'Sea monster' of the Jurassic unveiled

(CNN) -- Scientists have announced the discovery of the intact, fossilized skull of a marine crocodile with a dinosaur-like head and a fish-like tail that lived some 135 million years ago. The head of the expedition that found the specimen has dubbed it "Godzilla."

Zulma Gasparini, paleozoology professor at Argentina's Universidad Nacional de La Plata, said the fierce-looking animal probably terrorized creatures in the Pacific Ocean in the late Jurassic era, just as the film monster Godzilla frightened the people of Tokyo in the movies. "We are calling him the 'chico malo' -- 'bad boy'" of the ocean, she said.

The fossil was discovered in 1996 in the Patagonia region of Argentina. Gasparini and her colleagues spent years uncovering the skull and analyzing their find. They published their work Thursday in the journal Science. (Posted 2:07 p.m.)

Misunderstanding sparks evacuation of city hall in Denver suburb

(CNN) -- Colorado authorities said a misunderstanding led to the evacuation of the city hall complex in the Denver suburb of Arvada.

The evacuation was ordered around 7 a.m. (9 a.m. ET) after a man with a duffel bag was seen fleeing his parked vehicle outside city hall. A propane gas tank was later discovered inside the car, police said.

Susan Medina, a spokeswoman for Arvada police, said the man called police after seeing the story on local news and explained he had grown tired of waiting on his girlfriend to file a police report, got his bag and left. He said the propane tank was related to his job in construction. (Posted 1:06 p.m.)

Marines move into Karabila; Iraqis bury civilian dead

HUSAYBA, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraqi soldiers went on graveyard duty Thursday to help Iraqi civilians bury their dead in the aftermath of the U.S. Marine offensive in Husayba, near the Syrian border, as the main thrust of Operation Steel Curtain moved into Karabila to the east.

Major sweeps ended Monday inside Husayba, a town insurgents have used as a base -- and a conduit into and out of Syria.

Marines encountered little resistance -- some sporadic small arms fire -- when they reached Karabila early Thursday afternoon. They discovered and detonated a car bomb and a warehouse that had been wired to explode. (Posted 11:40 a.m.)

Committee chairman says lawmakers won't seek perjury charges against Orioles' ace

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Tom Davis, chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, announced Thursday that lawmakers will not seek perjury charges against baseball star Rafael Palmeiro.

In March, Palmeiro went to Capitol Hill and flatly denied ever using performance-enhancing drugs.

The Reform Committee opened an investigation to see if Palmeiro committed perjury -- a felony offense that can be punished by up to five years in prison -- after he was subsequently suspended for 10 days for using performance-enhancing drugs. (Posted 11:28 a.m.)

U.N. condemns bombings; Annan to visit Jordan Friday

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. Security Council on Thursday condemned Wednesday's hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan, that killed 56 people and wounded more than 100.

In a statement read by Russian Ambassador Andrey Denisov, the council said it "underlines the need to bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these intolerable acts to justice" and urged all member countries to cooperate and provide support to the government of Jordan.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is traveling in the region and had postponed a trip to Jordan that had been scheduled for Thursday, said through his spokesman that he will visit the country and King Abdullah on Friday. (Posted 10:49 a.m.)

At least 34 dead in suicide bombing at Baghdad restaurant

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A series of attacks in the Iraqi capital Thursday targeted police and civilians, including a suicide attack at a restaurant frequented by Iraqi police, that killed at least 34 people, Iraqi police and a U.S. military official said.

Another 25 were wounded when the bomber, strapped with explosives, detonated inside Qadduri restaurant in central Baghdad at about 9:40 a.m. (1:40 a.m. ET), Iraqi police said.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, spokesman for the Multinational Force Iraq, blamed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, for the attack on "a known restaurant for Iraqi police as they change shifts."

Lynch said al-Zarqawi was getting orders from Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahiri. "Zarqawi's got a mission, he's been told by Zawahiri to create an Islamic caliphate in Iraq from which they can spread thier evil across the region," Lynch said. "(Al-Zarqawi) still has the capability of recruiting suicide bombers, training those suicide bombers, and giving them the munitions, and that's what happened in Baghdad today and that's what happened in Jordan yesterday and that will continue." (Posted 10:18 a.m.)

Explosions in downtown Amman kill at least 56 victims plus three bombers;al Qaeda in Iraq claims responsibility for attacks

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Jordanians spontaneously flooded their capital Thursday, car horns blaring and Jordanian flags waving, to protest three suicide blasts at hotels in downtown Amman that killed at least 56 victims and three bombers and wounded 102 others.

Al Qaeda in Iraq claimed responsibility for the attacks, according to a posting on a Web site. Its authenticity cannot be verified by CNN, but authorities have said that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of the terror group, is a suspect.

The Web site said the attacks were carried out on "retreats that were planted in the land of Muslims in Amman" -- a reference to the hotels frequented by Westerners.

"After studying the targets and watching, we chose the places to carry the mission on some of the hotels, which the Jordanian dictator turned into a back yard for the enemies of faith -- the Jews and the Crusaders."

Jordan's King Abdullah II has close relationships with Israel and the United States. U.S. intelligence officials told CNN they "view that claim as credible." (Posted 10:16 a.m.)

Syrian president rejects criticism, says will cooperate with U.N. probe

DAMASCUS (CNN) -- In a nationally televised speech Thursday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad lashed out against his country's critics, particularly the United States and Israel, but said the nation will cooperate -- to a point -- with a United Nations investigation that has implicated Syria in the February assassination of a Lebanese politician.

Assad maintained Syria's innocence in the Feb. 14 death of Rafik Hariri, a former Lebanese prime minister who had become a critic of Syria's military occupation of Lebanon. His death in a car bombing touched off protests that eventually led to Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.

Earlier this week, Syrian officials invited U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis to come to Syria. Assad said Thursday that Mehlis had rejected the conditions Syria set for the visit. (Posted 6:45 a.m.)

U.S. withdraws Chinese hotel terror threat warning

BEIJING (CNN) -- The U.S. Embassy Thursday withdrew an advisory telling Americans to be wary of a possible terror threat involving hotels in China.

The move came just hours after Beijing cast doubt on the warning issued a day earlier, calling the threat "a sham fabricated by some foreign citizen."

"The Chinese Ministry of Public Security informed the U.S. Embassy in Beijing on November 10 that Chinese security authorities have determined that the source of a reported threat against four- and five-star hotels in China is not credible," the embassy statement said. "The United States Government is not aware of any other information of any threat against hotels in China, including Hong Kong." (Posted 3:34 a.m.)

Palestinians, Chinese among dead at Amman hotels

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Four Palestinians, including the head of military intelligence, were among 57 people killed Wednesday in suicide bombings at three hotels in Amman, Jordan, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

Maj. Gen. Bashir Nafeh died in the blast at the Grand Hyatt, along with Col. Abed Allun; Jihad Fattouh, the brother of the Palestinian parliament speaker; and Mosab Khoma, Erakat said. The four were returning to Palestine from Cairo, Egypt, he said, adding that he condemned the attack in the strongest terms possible.

In addition, three Chinese were killed and one wounded in the attacks, according to the Chinese news agency Xinhua, which cited a press release on the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Web site. They were members of a delegation from China's University of National Defense and were staying at one of the hotels, according to the report, which did not specify the hotel.

Jordan has said there were no government officials among the casualties, and a White House spokesman said the administration knew of no U.S. casualties. (Updated 3:03 a.m.)

One of Southeast Asia's most-wanted terrorists dead

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- One of Southeast Asia's most-wanted militants, accused of being a mastermind behind the 2002 and 2005 deadly Bali bombings, died Wednesday in a shootout with police, the national police chief said.

Azahari Husin, a Malaysian in his late 40s, was believed to be the bomb expert for the Islamic terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, and to have written its bomb manual. Indonesian Police Chief Gen. Sutanto said Azahari's identity was confirmed through fingerprints.

A second body was found in the house and is believed to be a militant known as Armand. National Police spokesman Aryanto Budiharjo said about 30 bombs were found in the home.

Noordin Top, a Malaysian who also is highly sought after, is believed to have been Azahari's accomplice in the Bali explosions. Officials believe the two had been recruiting and training suicide bombers with the aim of creating their own terror network. (Updated 12:35 a.m.)

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