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Sunday, May 7

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. "Posted" times are Eastern Daylight.

Three die in clashes between Palestinian militant groups

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Fighting between rival Palestinian militant groups early Monday left three militants dead near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, Palestinian security and hospital sources said. Ten people were wounded in the clash.

Killed in the hours-long gunbattle were two members of Fatah and one from Hamas. The groups have been involved in periodic clashes since Hamas won parliamentary elections in January. Until that ballot, Fatah -- the party of former leader Yasser Arafat -- had long held sway in Palestinian politics.

Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union and Israel. (posted 2:25 a.m.)

IED-makers hurt, one killed, in blast of their own bomb

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An explosion in the basement of a mosque in Baghdad led Iraqi troops to a workshop for making improvised explosive devices (IEDs), a statement from the Multi-National Division said on Monday.

One of the bomb-makers was killed in the Sunday blast and two were wounded, the statement said.

When Iraqi firefighters arrived at the mosque to put out the resulting fire, they noticed another IED and called for the Iraqi police explosive ordinance disposal team. The team cleared the mosque of bombs and bomb-making materials and dismantled six other IEDs, the statement said.

"Iraqi army officials are engaging local leaders to gain more information about the mosque and activities occurring there," the statement added. (posted 2:25 a.m.)

1,000-acre wildfire pushes 800 from homes in Florida coastal town

(CNN) -- Firefighters struggled to contain a quickly expanding brush fire Sunday evening in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., as the blaze quickly grew to 1,000 acres and forced about 800 people to flee their homes, forestry and fire officials said.

According to Volusia County authorities, the flames have destroyed one home, damaged two others and forced authorities to close a major highway. One firefighter was treated for smoke inhalation.

Air crews suspended their firefighting efforts overnight, but were expected to resume Monday morning around 8 a.m.

The latest fire scare came a day after fire teams brought a similar blaze under control.

Sunday's fire scorched hundreds of acres of pine hammock as gusty afternoon winds drove it across Interstate 95 toward an upscale subdivision, City Manager Frank Roberts told CNN.

No civilian injuries had been reported, but city officials ordered residents of about 250 homes to evacuate as the fire neared. (posted 12:40 a.m.)

Ex-Hill aide to plead guilty in Abramoff probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former top aide to an Ohio congressman is expected to plead guilty to federal charges Monday in connection with the ongoing investigation of a sprawling Capitol Hill lobbying scandal, according to two knowledgeable government sources.

Neil Volz, a lobbyist and former chief of staff for Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, is said to have concluded negotiations on a plea deal in which he agreed to cooperate with Justice Department prosecutors and the FBI, according to the sources, who asked not to be identified because the agreement has not been officially announced.

Volz served as Ney's chief of staff from late 1998 to early 2002, when he left to go to work for lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney agreed to step down temporarily as chairman of the House Administration Committee in January after being implicated in the scandal surrounding Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges, and he has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Court documents indicate Volz, while working for Abramoff, had urged Ney to support the firm's Indian tribe clients. Volz had also contacted Ney for a client that won a contract from Ney to improve cell phone reception in House buildings, according to the court documents. (Posted 10:35 p.m.)

Workers prepare for last leg of mine rescue

BEACONSFIELD, Australia (CNN) -- Preparations for drilling through the final section of rock that has trapped two miners in a Tasmanian gold mine since April 25 are under way, but it could be late Monday before the operation begins, a union official said.

Rescuers are just a few feet away from the men and will have to drill upward through the rock to reach the men. Bill Shorten, secretary of the Australian Workers Union, told reporters that crews were getting ready to begin drilling that shaft Monday morning -- but the preparations could take "all day," he said.

Brant Webb, 37, and Todd Russell, 34, have been trapped in a steel cage about a square yard in size after a large rock fell on it during a minor earthquake. A third miner, Larry Knight, 44, was killed in the quake, and Knight's family said they will hold his funeral Tuesday in Launceston. (Posted 9:15 p.m.)

Thailand nightclub fire kills 7

BANGKOK (CNN) -- Investigators in Thailand believe an electrical short caused a fire at a nightclub that killed seven people Sunday night, police said.

Another 50 people were injured in the fire, which took place in Patay, about 150 km east of Bangkok. Three of them remained hospitalized Monday, police said. (Posted 8:30 p.m.)

Nepal recalls ambassadors chosen by the king

(CNN) -- Nepal's new government has recalled 12 ambassadors who were appointed by King Gyanendra and revoked all royal appointments to government corporations and state-owned institutions, the Home Minister announced Sunday.

The actions were announced after a meeting of the new Cabinet. They cover all appointments made by the king since Oct. 4, 2002, when he disbanded Parliament.

The recalled ambassadors include the envoys to India, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Russia, France, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, the minister said. (Posted 1:34 p.m.)

Al-Rubaie: Despite more bodies in Baghdad, sectarian violence starting to decrease

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Police reported discovering 43 bodies scattered across Iraq's capital this weekend, but Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie told CNN's "Late Edition" Sunday that the "sectarian-motivated violence" is isolated and beginning to decline.

"I think we are back to the almost to the same level as before the golden mosque explosion," al-Rubaie said, referring to the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra that ignited already smoldering Shiite-Sunni hostilities.

Al-Rubaie admitted the recent killings in Baghdad were the result of "a surge and spike" in sectarian violence after the mosque bombing, but credited calls from the country's leaders -- both political and religious -- with helping to stem the violence.

"Probably more than 80 percent of the country is secure and people are going to their jobs normally while some pockets, neighborhoods in Baghdad are troublesome," al-Rubaie said.(Posted 1:10 p.m.)

Congressman, 9/11 families speak for immigration bill at ground zero news conference

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and an organization representing 9/11 families held a Sunday news conference to back legislation calling for tighter border and immigration controls and opposing what they consider to be amnesty.

Under the Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, all undocumented immigrants and anyone who helped them get to or remain in the United States would be charged as felons, raising the penalty for illegal immigration.

The bill also calls for the Department of Defense to build an almost 700-mile-long fence along Mexico's border with California and Arizona, authorizes the use of military technology to bolster border surveillance, and requires an increase in the number of border patrol units and detention facilities. -- From CNN's Jennifer Rizzo

"After 9/11, immigration went from being just a social issue or an economic issue and it became a very very serious homeland security issue," said Rep. Peter King, the committee chairman who was joined at the event at the World Trade Center site by members of a group called 9/11 Families for a Secure America. (Posted 1:10 p.m.)

U.S. Marine killed in enemy action

(CNN) -- A U.S. Marine was killed Sunday after suffering wounds in combat in Iraq's Anbar province, according to a military news release.

No other details were available.

With the death, 2,418 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war. (Posted, 1:10 p.m.)

Bird flu arrival in U.S. within months would be neither surprise nor crisis, HHS chief says

ATLANTA (CNN) -- The first case of avian flu in a bird or human in the United States could be just months away, but it would "not be a crisis" unless it evolves into a virus that could spread from human to human, Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt said Sunday.

Leavitt, a guest on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," said the nation is "underprepared" for a pandemic and local communities would have to take the lead in dealing with outbreaks.

"In terms of the virus coming on a bird, there isn't a way we can predict it," Leavitt said. "However, it would not be a big surprise if we see it even in the next few months."

How the government responds when an infected bird is found in the United States depends on the situation, he said.

"If it were just a live bird and if it were just a few birds, we would do all we could to find out if it had gone into a broader area," Leavitt said. "A bigger concern would be if it had infiltrated a domestic flock and then the Department of Agriculture would become engaged and we'd literally begin to cull the birds, or to kill them, in a humane way and that would begin to isolate the virus." (Posted 12:17 p.m.)

Former Indonesian leader Suharto in surgery

JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Former Indonesian dictator Suharto was undergoing surgery Sunday to stop bleeding in his digestive tract, one of his doctors said.

Suharto was admitted to Pertamina Hospital in south Jakarta on Thursday evening because of the bleeding. He has been receiving blood transfusions.

In a statement read on radio Sunday, Dr. Adji Suprayitno said a colonoscopy was performed and the source of the bleeding was found on the left side of the large intestine. Suharto was deemed stable enough to undergo an operation, which began about 9 p.m. (10 a.m. ET) and may take three hours, Suprayitno said

Suharto was president of Indonesia from 1967 until his resignation, under immense political pressure, in 1998. (Updated 11:50 a.m.)

House intel chair, conservative Senator warn against a military general leading CIA

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Reports that President Bush has chosen an Air Force general to head the Central Intelligence Agency have drawn a mixed reaction on Capitol Hill, with two GOP lawmakers voicing concerns about a military man heading the civilian agency.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told "Fox News Sunday" that appointing a military general to head the CIA would "send the wrong signal."

Hayden, 61, is the principal deputy to National Intelligence Director John Negroponte. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Porter Goss, who abruptly resigned the CIA post Friday after losing what intelligence sources described as a power struggle with Negroponte.

Speaking on "ABC This Week," Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who serves on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, also raised concerns about Hayden.

But Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein -- appearing on the same program -- called Bush's nominee "the logical choice," although she noted that his position as a four-star general is "a complicating factor," while Republican Sen. John McCain, on CBS' "Face the Nation," called on both parties to support Bush's nominee. (Updated 11:15 a.m.)

Iran warns U.N. council reps on eve of meeting

(CNN) -- Iran Sunday warned the foreign ministers of the five veto-wielding members of the United Nations Security Council "not to go to extremes" when considering a proposal that could pave the way for economic sanctions against the Islamic state, according to a report from Iran's state-run news agency, IRNA.

The foreign ministers of the five permanent members U.N. Security Council will meet Monday to discuss a draft resolution introduced last week by the U.S., France and Britain.

"If their measure and attitude are rational, they will receive a wise response," said Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Hamid-Reza Asefi, according to IRNA.

The draft resolution, drawn up under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, demands Tehran give up its production of nuclear fuel or face penalties that could include economic sanctions.

Russia and China, the other two permanent members of the Security Council, have said they oppose sanctions. (Posted, 9:05 a.m.)

'No more than 5' British troops killed in helicopter crash

LONDON (CNN) -- "No more than five" British troops were killed when a British helicopter went down in Basra, Iraq on Saturday, Britain's ministry of defense said on Sunday.

Defense minister Des Browne told the BBC there were no more than five people on board the helicopter, and the ministry was currently informing their next of kin.

The helicopter went down in a residential area of Basra. The military could neither confirm nor deny reports by local officials that it had been hit by a missile.

An official with Sadr Teaching Hospital in Basra told CNN that at least four Iraqis were killed and 29 were wounded during the clashes between British military and Iraqis after the crash. (Posted 7:15 a.m.)

Prominent reporter dies during news conference on trapped miners

BEACONSFIELD, Australia (CNN) -- A prominent Australian journalist collapsed on Sunday during a news conference regarding the two gold miners trapped underground and later died.

Richard Carleton, a reporter for Australia's version of "60 Minutes," had just asked a question of mine manager Matthew Gill when he walked away from the group of reporters and fell to the ground, according to Australia's National Nine News.

Hugh Williams, a producer working for CNN, helped administer cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to Carleton until paramedics arrived, but Carleton was pronounced dead upon arrival at a local hospital.

National Nine News reported that Carleton, 62, had had two bypass surgeries in recent years.

He joined "60 Minutes" in 1987, according to the program's Web site, and covered stories such as the Gulf War, the war in Bosnia, the Northern Ireland conflict and violence in the Middle East. Earlier in his 40-year career, he worked for Australia's ABC network and for the BBC in London. (Posted 6:24 a.m.)

Egeland greeted with protests against international troops in Darfur

NYALA, Sudan (CNN) -- The U.N. under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs was greeted by protesters on Sunday as he arrived in Nyala, the largest city in southern Darfur, to assess the humanitarian crisis in the region.

As Jan Egeland stepped off his plane, several dozen protesters chanted and waved banners saying "No to international interference," an apparent reference to a proposal to send U.N. peacekeepers to Darfur to calm the violence that has killed 180,000 people and displaced 2 million others.

Saturday, a spokesman for the Sudanese government suggested that Sudan would welcome U.N. peacekeepers, but a foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters on Sunday that the government had not yet decided whether to allow the so-called "blue helmets" into the region.

Currently, 7,000 peacekeepers from the African Union are trying to maintain order in the nearly 1,000 camps for internally displaced refugees. Egeland predicted that even 20,000 U.N. peacekeepers would have trouble maintaining stability, and he voiced concern that the two smaller rebel groups that splintered from a main group during the peace accord talks could cause problems. (Posted 4:51 a.m.)

Police evict settlers from home in Hebron; 19 officers injured

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Police used a circular saw to cut through the door of a home in Hebron early Sunday to evict a group of West Bank settlers who were living there illegally.

As police worked to gain access to the home, other Jewish settlers threw stones, slightly injuring some officers, a police spokesman said. In all, 19 police officers were lightly wounded in clashes with protesters on the scene, police said.

At least 700 police officers were at the site to deal with the angry settlers. Seventeen settlers were arrested, police said.

After several hours, all three families living in the home had been forcibly evacuated, but it took police a little longer to clear out the settlers who had joined the families inside to try to stop their eviction.

A total of 41 people were removed from the home, police said.

A court ruled that the three families were living illegally in the Palestinian home, and the High Court of Justice ordered security forces to evacuate them by Monday. They had been occupying the home for a month. (Posted 3:58 a.m.)

Suicide car bomber explodes in Karbala, 2 detonate in Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide car bomber exploded on Sunday in Karbala killing at least five people and wounding 18, hospital officials said.

Two other car bombs detonated on Sunday in Baghdad nearly simultaneously: one at 9 a.m. and the other at 9:10 a.m., Iraqi police said.

The first blast targeted a military convoy at an Iraqi army base in Baghdad and left eight dead and 15 wounded. The second, near a government agricultural building, killed one person and wounded five, police said.

Karbala is 50 miles south of Baghdad. (Posted 3:12 a.m.)

43 bodies found in Baghdad in past 24 hours

43 bodies found in Baghdad in past 24 hours

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- In the latest evidence of heightened sectarian violence in Baghdad, a total of 43 bodies were found in Iraq's capital in the past 24 hours in various locations, Iraqi police told CNN on Sunday.

All of the bodies had gunshot wounds to the head, police said.

Since the Feb. 22 bombing of the Askariya Mosque in Samarra ignited already smoldering Shiite-Sunni hostilities, more than 200 bodies have been found shot in the head, many of them with evidence of torture, all dumped in neighborhoods in and around Baghdad. With the latest findings, 88 of those bodies turned up in the first week of May.

Iraqi authorities reported finding 53 shot and tortured bodies in April, and 65 in March. (Updated, 8:18 a.m.)

Leader of polygamous sect now among FBI's Ten Most Wanted

(CNN) -- The FBI on Saturday added the fugitive leader of a polygamous sect wanted on criminal charges of sexual conduct with a minor to its Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list -- where he joins al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Warren Steed Jeffs, 50, leads the the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which broke away from mainstream Mormonism after the main church renounced polygamy.

Jeffs' movement is based in Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City. Polygamy is freely practiced in Colorado City, a remote enclave that straddles the Arizona-Utah state line. Jeffs is accused of arranging marriages between underage girls and older men.

Jeffs faces charges of unlawful flight to avoid prosecution in Utah and Arizona, sexual conduct with a minor, conspiracy to commit sexual conduct with a minor and rape as an accomplice, according to the FBI Web site. (Posted 12:05 a.m.)

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