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Monday, March 27

Editor's Note: The CNN Wire is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents and producers, and The CNN Wire editors.

Howard: Uranium agreement near between Australia and China

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- An agreement to sell Australian uranium to China could be concluded during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao to Canberra in the next week, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Tuesday.

Wen is due to arrive in Australia on Saturday and will leave on Tuesday.

Howard told a news conference in Canberra the two sides were "making good progress" in negotiating a nuclear energy deal.

"It's possible that the discussions could be satisfactorily concluded so that something could be said or signed when the Chinese premier visits Australia next week," he said.

China wants to use more nuclear energy to power its fast-growing economy and to reduce its energy dependence on coal and oil.

Australia holds about 40 percent of the world's known low-cost uranium deposits and agreed in principle during a visit by Howard to China in April last year to work on a nuclear safeguards agreement that would permit sales of uranium to China for peaceful purposes. (posted 12:55 a.m.)

Afghan Christian convert is freed

KABUL (CNN) -- An Afghan man threatened with the death penalty for converting to Christianity has been released from prison, senior Western diplomats said Tuesday. His whereabouts was not immediately known.

Ahead of his release, Abdul Rahman requested asylum in a western country, according to the United Nations. He has lived in Europe at times.

Rahman was held by Afghan authorities for his conversion from Islam to Christianity, punishable by death in Afghanistan, which follows Islamic law. Many Muslim clerics in the country called for his death, and said even if he were freed his life would be in danger.

"Mr. Abdul Rahman has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan," a statement from the office of U.N. Special Representative to Afghanistan said Monday. "We expect that this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case." (posted 12:55 a.m.)

Reagan aide Lyn Nofziger dead at 81

(CNN) -- Franklin C. "Lyn" Nofziger, a longtime press secretary to President Reagan, died Monday. He was 81. Nofziger died late in the afternoon of cancer at his home in Falls Church, Va., said Eldon Girdner, a neighbor and fellow church member. Nofziger's wife, Bonnie, was at his side.

"I was deeply saddened this afternoon when I heard of Lyn Nofziger's death," said Nancy Reagan in a written statement from Los Angeles. "Lyn was with us from the gubernatorial campaign in 1965 through the early White House days, and Ronnie valued his advice -- and good humor -- as much as anyone's." (posted 1 a.m.)

Slain minister's wife charged with murder

SELMER, Tenn. (CNN) -- The wife of a Tennessee minister gunned down in their home last week was arraigned Monday on a first-degree murder charge.

Mary Winkler, 32, sat expressionless throughout the proceeding, which lasted only a few minutes, and did not enter a plea.

After reading her her rights, the judge asked if she had any questions; she shook her head from side to side and answered, "No, sir."

Bail issues will be discussed Thursday morning at a preliminary hearing. Dressed in a red jumpsuit and accompanied by her lawyer, Winkler then shuffled out of the courtroom, a chain attached to her ankles clanking.

According to the arrest warrant, Winkler confessed to the crime after being apprehended Thursday in Alabama with her three daughters. (1 a.m.)

Businessman charged in alleged GOP scheme to jam Dem phones

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former telemarketer pleaded not guilty Monday to conspiracy charges in an alleged Republican scheme to jam Democratic Party phones lines in New Hampshire during the 2002 elections.

Shaun Hansen, the former co-owner of an Idaho-based telemarketing firm, is charged with conspiracy to make hundreds of Election Day phone calls in order to disrupt five New Hampshire Democratic Party voter-turnout telephone banks at Democratic Party offices and a labor union office.

The two-count indictment returned in secret two weeks ago was unsealed Monday shortly before Hansen, 34, appeared in a federal court in Concord. Trial is to begin May 2. The indictment says Hansen received $2,500 for employees of his firm -- Mylo Enterprises -- to call the numbers and then hang up, thereby tying up the lines so they were unavailable for use in voter-turnout operations. (Posted: 8:19 p.m.)

Report: Investigators smuggled radioactive materials into U.S.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two teams of government investigators using fake documents were able to enter the United States with enough radioactive sources to make two dirty bombs, according to a federal report released Monday.

The investigators purchased a "small quantity" of radioactive materials from a commercial source while posing as employees of a fictitious company, and brought the materials into the United States through checkpoints on the northern and southern borders, according to a Government Accountability Office report.

"It's just an indictment of the system that it's easier to get radiological material than it is to get cold medicine," a senior Senate staffer said. (Posted 7:20 p.m.)

Senate committee sets up showdown with immigration foes

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Setting up a showdown with Republicans pushing for a harder line against immigration, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday passed a proposed overhaul plan that creates a guest worker program and gives immigrants already in the United States illegally the chance to work toward legal status.

The issue has split the ranks of the GOP, with only four of the committee's 10 Republicans voting for the bill. The committee also accepted language that would create a legalization process for undocumented immigrants already in the country -- a controversial idea denounced by its critics as "amnesty."

The Senate bill is at odds with a bill approved by the House in December that doesn't includes a guest worker program or a process for legalization. The House bill also calls for building 700 miles of security fence along the U.S.-Mexico border, and would make illegal immigration a felony.

Protests against the House bill prompted a walkout by an estimated 22,000 Latino high school and middle school students in Los Angeles on Monday. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the city's first Latino mayor in more than a century, praised the students but urged them to return to class. (Posted 7:15 p.m.)

Alleged sex abuser to wear electronic bracelet

(CNN) -- A man accused of holding a 14-year-old girl prisoner in his home for a decade will have to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet after he is freed on bail this week, a judge ordered Monday.

Bail for Thomas Hose was increased from $2,000 to $10,000, at the request of the Allegheny County district attorney. Hose's attorney, James Ecker, said his client had posted bond of $600.

Also Monday, a beautician who allegedly helped Tanya Kach change her appearance so she could run away undetected with Hose was arraigned as an accomplice to sex crimes with a minor. Hose was charged last week with one count of sexual assault and three counts of deviate sexual intercourse. (Posted 7:15 p.m.)

Moussaoui admits knowing about 9/11 plot

From CNN Producer Phil Hirschkorn

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNN) -- An unrepentant Zacarias Moussaoui admitted Monday for the first time that he knew prior to Sept. 11, 2001, about al Qaeda's plot to hijack planes and turn them into missiles aimed at the World Trade Center and later rejoiced at the site of their rubble.

"I had knowledge that the two towers would be hit, but I did not have the details," Moussaoui told the court after taking the stand in his own defense. Nor did Moussaoui know the date the attacks, he said.

But he said he knew the attack would be after his August 2001 arrest in Minnesota and made sure to have a radio in his jail cell. When the first news reports described a fire at the trade center, Moussaoui said, "I immediately understood."

And as he admitted last year, he told jurors that had he not been arrested, he would have tried to hijack a fifth plane and fly it into the White House. (Posted 5 p.m.)

Accused terrorist's case heads to Supreme Court

From CNN Producer Bill Mears

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Salim Ahmed Hamdan denies being a terrorist, and denies fighting against coalition forces in Afghanistan when he was captured there two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

U.S. authorities think otherwise. They want to try the Yemeni native -- whom officials say has admitted being a personal assistant, bodyguard, and driver to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden -- in a military tribunal at the Navy's prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Now that legal tug-of-war goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in what could be the most important test of the government's power to detain and prosecute suspected terrorists captured and held overseas by the American military. Hamdan's attorneys say the tribunals are unconstitutional, but the Bush administration says it has the power to try "enemy combatants" captured in the war on terror.

Meanwhile, Hamdan's lawyer says he does not plan to ask Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to recuse himself from the case despite Scalia's reported comments about the issue. Scalia told an audience at a Swiss law school in early March that foreign prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay do not have the same constitutional guarantees as do American citizens and should not have full access to federal courts. (Posted 5:10 p.m.)

Attacks in Baghdad, northern Iraq kill 67

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 67 people were reported killed in attacks across Baghdad and in northern Iraq killed at least 67 people Monday, while gunmen dressed like Iraqi police commandos kidnapped 16 employees of a Baghdad trading company Monday morning, Iraqi officials said.

The gunmen, driving vehicles usually used by the Iraqi Interior Ministry, grabbed the 16 al-Saeed Trading Company employees in the capital's al-Mansour neighborhood about 10 a.m., an Interior Ministry official told CNN. Interior Ministry officials have repeatedly denied that their police forces have been responsible for a spate of abductions around Iraq in recent months.

And a suicide bomber killed at least 30 people and wounded 30 more outside a recruitment center for security forces near the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, the U.S. military told CNN. The Iraqi Defense Ministry put the number at 40.

The base is located between Mosul and Tal Afar, a city U.S. and Iraqi troops reclaimed from insurgents in September. President Bush recently cited that campaign as an example of progress in the 3-year-old war in Iraq. (Posted 5:15 p.m.)

Slain minister's wife charged with murder

SELMER, Tenn. (CNN) -- The wife of a Tennessee minister gunned down in their home last week showed no emotion as she was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge Monday.

Mary Winkler, 32, sat expressionless throughout the proceeding, which lasted only a few minutes, and did not enter a plea. After reading her her rights, the judge asked if she had any questions; she shook her head and answered, "No, sir."

Her husband, Matthew Winkler, was found shot to death Wednesday night by church members who went to his home after he failed to show up for a mid-week service. Police launched a search for his wife and their three daughters, who were found Thursday evening on the Alabama Gulf Coast. (Posted 4:45 p.m.)

U.N.: Afghan Christian convert requests aslyum

(CNN) -- An Afghan man threatened with the death penalty for converting to Christianity has requested aslyum outside the country, the United Nations said Monday.

Abdul Rahman was being held by Afghan authorities for his conversion from Islam to Christianity, punishable by death in Afghanistan. Many Muslim clerics in the country have called for his death, and said even if he were freed his life would be in danger.

"Mr. Abdul Rahman has asked for asylum outside Afghanistan," said a statement from the office of U.N. Special Representative to Afghanistan. "We expect that this will be provided by one of the countries interested in a peaceful solution to this case."

Security Council permanent members, Germany to hold new talks on Iran

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will hold talks on the diplomatic standoff surrounding Iran's nuclear program Thursday in Berlin, British and U.S. officials said Monday.

In London, Britain's foreign office confirmed the meeting and referred reporters to German officials for details. U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will attend the meeting during a European trip scheduled later this week, McCormack said.

"I think the focus will be on the medium to long-term issues about how to get Iran back into with its Non-Proliferation Treaty obligations," he said.

The permanent Security Council members - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- and Germany, which has been working with Britain and France to find a solution to the Iranian situation. The United States accuses Iran of working to build nuclear weapons, while Iran has said it is building a civilian power program. (Posted 1:38 a.m.)

Rumsfeld: We're not getting the good news out about Iraq

CARLISLE BARRACKS, Pa. (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Monday called for better ways to promote the United States abroad, blaming the media for the negative image the country has garnered in some quarters as it battles terrorism.

Rumsfeld addressed an audience at the U.S. Army War College in Carlysle Barracks and took questions at the end of his remarks.

"If I were grading, I'd say we probably deserve a D or a D+ as a country in terms of how we're doing in the war of ideology," he said. "We have not found the formula."

The secretary decried the loss of propaganda arms of U.S. intelligence in the latter half of the 20th Century and said U.S. communications had not yet adapted to the 21st Century's new technology. (Posted 1:29 p.m.)

Judge rules New Orleans mayoral election will go forward April 22

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle ruled Monday that the mayor's election in New Orleans will go forward on April 22.

"The election goes forward as scheduled," Lemelle said.

The hearing Monday was on a request by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that Lemelle reconsider an earlier decision not to order the state to take further steps to assist voters who were displaced from New Orelans following Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent flooding of the city.

While leaving the election date as it is, Lemelle ordered both parties to work with each to address problems saying there is, "Still room for improvement in electoral process."

New Orleans was about two-thirds black before Katrina hit Aug. 29. The flooding that followed left more than three-quarters of the city under water but spared largely white districts such as Uptown and Algiers. Concerns that the evacuations that followed would weaken black political clout prompted current Mayor Ray Nagin to vow in a January speech that New Orleans would remain a "chocolate" city -- a remark he soon disavowed after extensive criticism.

About 210,000 of the city's population of nearly half a million had returned by late January, according to an estimate prepared by the city's emergency operations center. Only about 50,000 of the 350,000 people who lived in areas flooded by the storm have come back, the survey found.

Louis Keller, a spokesman for New Orleans' voting registration office, said the city had 296,999 voters on its rolls -- but he did not know how many of those were still in the city. (Posted 1:23 p.m.)

Moussaoui says he knew about plan to crash planes into the World Trade Center

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNN) -- Confessed al Qaeda terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui admitted Monday that he knew about an a plot to crash airplanes into the World Trade Center.

"I had knowledge that the two towers would be hit, but I did not have the details," Moussaoui told the court after taking the stand in his own defense.

He said he was not supposed to be 20th hijacker, but he said he was supposed to pilot a plane into the White House and that convicted shoe bomber Richard Reed was supposed to be on his crew.

He said he did not know the precise date of the Sept. 11 attack. (Posted 12:10 a.m.)

Bush: 'Tough choices' and 'compromises' ahead in immigration showdown

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As the U.S. Senate prepares to sink its teeth into the contentious immigration debate that has triggered massive protests in recent days, President Bush warned Monday that "tough choices" lie ahead.

Securing the nation's borders and determining the nation's immigration laws "will require all of us in Washington to make tough choices and make compromises," Bush told a group of immigrants at a naturalization ceremony, in a speech timed to pressure the Senate as it begins deliberations.

Among those likely to make compromises is the president himself, who has struggled to win support among many Republican lawmakers for a guest-worker program that would allow illegal immigrants temporary work visas.

Such a plan "would allow honest workers to provide for their families while respecting the law," the president said, calling the program "vital to securing" the U.S. border.

"By creating a separate legal channel for those entering American to do an honest day's labor, we would dramatically reduce the number of people trying to sneak back and forth across the border," Bush argued.

The plan could allow millions of workers illegally in the Untied States to earn legal status. Some opponents say such a plan amounts to amnesty -- a charge Bush denies.(Posted 10:50 a.m.)

Rocket, mortar slam Baghdad neighborhood; 2 dead

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A rocket slammed into a building in southeastern Baghdad's al-Zafaraniya neighborhood late Monday afternoon, killing one person and wounding eight others, a Baghdad emergency police official told CNN.

A few minutes later, a mortar round hit a house in the same neighborhood, killing one person and wounding two.

Earlier, police found nine bodies in a southwestern Baghdad's Bayya neighborhood Monday morning, an Iraqi police official told CNN.

According to the official, all had been strangled and showed signs of torture -- some had ropes around their necks.

Late Sunday, Iraqi police found 18 bodies along a road near Tall al-Sakher, a mostly Shiite town northeast of Baghdad, a Baghdad Emergency police official said. Tall al-Sakher is surrounded by number of Sunni towns.

According to the official, eyewitness said gunmen driving in three vehicles attacked a group of young men.

Just before midday Monday, a bomb exploded inside minibus in Sadr City section of the Iraqi capital, killing two people in the vehicle, emergency police said. Six others were wounded in the explosion.

Also around midday, a barrage of 10 mortars fell across Baghdad over a two-hour period, Interior Ministry officials said.

Two people were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad's Zayuna neighborhood Monday morning, police said.

Three people were wounded when a mortar round landed in central Baghdad. The attack took place in the Karrada neighborhood.

In western Baghdad, four people were wounded when a roadside bomb hit an Iraqi police patrol in Khahtan Square.

-- CNN Baghdad Bureau Director Cal Perry and CNN Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this story.

Palestinian legislature will allow all 132 members to speak on formation of new Hamas led government, delaying vote

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- The Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament will not cast a confidence vote on the Palestinian Authority's new government until Tuesday or Wednesday to allow legislators a time to speak, a Hamas representative said Monday.

Hamas controls 74 seats in the 132-seat Palestinian Legislative Council.

Each of the 132 members will have five minutes to speak.

Hamas had tried to form a national unity government, but the Fatah movement, which is now in the minority, has refused to join. So did the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Hamas has put together a slate of 24 Hamas members.

-- From CNN stringer Nidal Rafeah (Posted 9:14 a.m.)

Defendant takes center stage in 9/11 trial

From CNN Senior Producer Phil Hirschkorn

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CNN) -- Jurors are very likely to hear directly from Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person put on trial in the United States for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, because he is expected to testify in his own defense Monday.

Moussaoui, 37, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage who rarely speaks to his court-appointed defense team, announced to them in court last week that he would take the stand "whether you want it or not."

Moussaoui's previous pronouncements in open court have cursed America and praised terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

His defense team does not want him to take the stand, but it is ultimately his decision.

The only question before the jury is whether or not Moussaoui deserves the death penalty.

First, the jury must deem Moussaoui qualified for capital punishment, which means 12 jurors must unanimously find he committed an act that contributed to at least one of the 2,793 deaths on Sept. 11, when 19 of his al Qaeda confederates hijacked and crashed four passenger jets.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty 11 months ago to joining the conspiracy to turn planes into weapons and aim them at prominent buildings like the World Trade Center's twin towers and the Pentagon. He has claimed he was tapped for a different plot and intended to fly into the White House.

Prosecutors contend Moussaoui's lies to federal agents who arrested him in mid-August 2001 after he aroused suspicions at a Minnesota flight school furthered the conspiracy. They rested their case Thursday after calling 25 witnesses. (Posted 8:55 a.m.)

Baghdad governor, city council suspend ties with U.S. forces

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Baghdad's provincial governor, Hussein al-Tahan, and the Baghdad city council said Monday they were suspending cooperation with U.S. forces until the completion of an investigation into Sunday's raid near a Sadr City mosque that left at least 16 members of the Mehdi Army militia dead.

Police said 20 members of the militia, loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were killed. Sources inside Sadr's office -- which is inside the mosque -- also said militia members were killed in the raid, which took place at dusk Sunday.

But it was not clear who was fighting them: Iraqi police and sources in Sadr's office said the U.S. military was battling the militia. The U.S. military issued a statement saying Iraqi forces had conducted a raid in the area and that U.S. Special Operations troops "were on scene in an advisory capacity only."

The statement said 16 insurgents were killed. It said the Iraqi forces "entered their objective," but did not say what the objective was. It also said, "No mosques were entered or damaged during this operation."

Iraqi television showed a room containing dead, bloodied bodies wearing identification tags that say "Dawa Islamic Party," the Shiite party of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

Baghdad emergency police said the incident began when U.S. military surrounded the Mustafa mosque in northeast Baghdad. Police said American troops tried to enter the mosque, and guards on the roof started shooting; the military shot back and killed some guards. Then, police said, some militia rushed outside to attack the military, and the military again shot back, killing more of the militia members.

But the U.S. military statement said Iraqi forces launched a raid "to disrupt a terrorist cell responsible for conducting attacks on Iraqi security and coalition forces and kidnapping Iraqi civilians in the local area.

"As elements of the 1st Iraqi Special Operations Forces Brigade entered their objective, they came under fire. In the ensuing exchange of fire, Iraqi Special Operations Forces killed 16 insurgents. As they secured their objective, they detained 15 more individuals."

A man held hostage by insurgents was freed in the raid, the statement said, describing him as "a non-westerner" whose identity was unknown.

Iraqi forces "also discovered a cache with materials used to make improvised explosive devices and other weapons and ammunition. The materials were destroyed at the scene," the statement said.

"No Iraqi or U.S. forces were killed during this operation. One Iraqi soldier received a wound that is not life threatening," the statement added. (Posted 8:51 a.m.)

Suicide bomber kills at least 30 people outside base in northern Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 30 people were killed and 30 more wounded outside a recruitment center for security forces in northern Iraq Monday, where a suicide bomber detonated, the U.S. military told CNN.

Nineveh Governor Duraid Kashmola said the bomber was wearing an explosives vest after earlier reports of a suicide car bomber.

The makeup of the casualties was not immediately clear.

According to a base employee, the attack took place around 11:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m. ET) at Kisik Base when the bomber walked up to a line of recruits.

The base is located between Tal Afar and Mosul, but is closer to Tal Afar. Recruits line up outside the base to apply for jobs.

-- CNN Baghdad Bureau Director Cal Perry and Produce Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.(Posted 8:48 a.m.)

Defense case takes center stage in 9/11 trial

ALEXANDRIA, VA (CNN) -- Jurors could find out as early as Monday whether Zacarias Moussaoui, the only person put on trial in the United States for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will testify in his own defense.

Moussaoui, 37, a French citizen of Moroccan heritage who rarely speaks to his court-appointed defense team, announced to them in court last week that he would take the stand "whether you want it or not."

Moussaoui's previous pronouncements in open court have cursed America and praised terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

The only question before the jury is whether or not Moussaoui deserves the death penalty. (posted 1:35 a.m.)

Nigerian militants release 3 Western oil workers

LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Three Western oil workers taken captive last month by militants in Nigeria's oil-rich Delta state were released Monday, a government spokesman told CNN.

According to Abel Oshevire, Americans Cody Oswald and Russell Spell and Briton John Hudspith were the final three hostages released by a group opposed to foreign oil investors.

"They have been handed over to Shell officials and embassy personnel in Warri," Oshevire said. "They are well." The other six hostages were released on March 1, after all abducted on Feb. 18. (Posted 11:20 p.m.)

Bomb defused at headquarters of Thai opposition party

BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- A police bomb squad defused an explosive device Monday at the headquarters of the opposition Democrat Party, a party spokesman said.

According to Ongard Klampaiboom, the tissue-sized box contain enough TNT to take down the several story office building and had been placed directly below the office of party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. Abhisit left the building at 10 a.m., Ongard said, about 10 minutes before the bomb was set to go off.

Thai political parties are currently campaigning for parliamentary elections in April. Faced with extensive protests, embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called a snap vote in early March and promised to step down if his party won less than 50 percent of the vote. (Posted 11:05 p.m.)

Moderate earthquake hits southern Japan

TOKYO (CNN) -- A moderate earthquake jolted southern Japan late Monday morning, but there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, authorities there said.

The magnitude 5.5 earthquake struck about 11:50 a.m. (9:50 p.m. Sunday ET) off the southern island of Kyushu, about 800 km (500 miles) west-southwest of Tokyo, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported. The U.S. Geological Survey reported the quake's magnitude as a 5.3.

The temblor was centered about 50 km beneath the ocean floor, and no tsunami warnings were issued. (Posted 10:40 p.m.)

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