Tuesday, May 9
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.
Victims' families speak on Day 2 of Nightclub fire sentencing
PROVIDENCE (CNN) -- In the second day of emotional testimony, voices of sadness and anger filled a Rhode Island courtroom Tuesday during the sentencing hearing for a band manager who started a nightclub fire that killed 100 people in February 2003.
Family members read impact statements on behalf of their lost loved ones, and prosecutors read statements on behalf of the families of victims killed in the deadliest blaze in the state's history.
At the outset of the hearing for Daniel Biechele, who pleaded guilty to 100 counts of involuntary manslaughter for igniting off on-stage fireworks, Superior Court Judge Francis Darigan invited family members to give statements in which they described the emotional impact of the tragedy. (Posted 8:57 p.m.)
Report: Hamas, Fatah agree to stop fighting each other
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah have agreed to end the violence that has raged between them for two days, according to a statement read by Fatah's Ahmed Halaf on Ramattan, a Palestinian news agency.
The agreement came after a lengthy meeting between the two sides.
The statement said that Palestinian police will enforce the agreement, arresting anyone found carrying weapons. The two sides agreed to form committees to deal with the problems between them by negotiation. (Posted 7:58 p.m.)
EU to develop temporary program to aid Palestinian people
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- With the backing of the United States, the European Union will develop a "temporary mechanism" to deliver humanitarian aid directly to the Palestinian people, bypassing their Hamas-led government, under a proposal unveiled Tuesday.
Diplomats from the Mideast Quartet, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, endorsed the proposal after meeting at the United Nations in New York. However, details of what types of aid will be provided, and how it will be delivered, remain to be decided.
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union's external affairs commissioner, said the aid would likely be focused on "basic human needs," such as health and education, and it would be distributed directly to Palestinians, not through the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority. The World Bank, United Nations and other donors would be invited to take part, she said.
Ferrero-Waldner said the mechanism would be developed "as speedily as possible." (Posted 7:04 p.m.)
U.N. humanitarian chief 'positively surprised' by Darfur talks
(CNN) -- The U.N. humanitarian relief coordinator said Tuesday he was "very positively surprised" by talks with Sudanese officials over the crisis in that country's Darfur region but said security for refugees needed immediate improvements.
"This is more than anything a protection crisis," Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told CNN after meetings in Khartoum. "I have now had assurances from the government that they will do all that they can do in the areas where they control things to immediately re-establish security."
Sudan's government and two rebel groups signed a peace agreement last week in the Nigerian city of Abuja. The pact requires the Sudanese government to disarm the janjaweed militia, which has terrorized civilians in its fight with the rebels, while the rebel groups that signed the pact must withdraw into specified areas and eventually disarm.
The deal gives the rebels the fourth highest position in the Sudanese government -- senior assistant to the president and chair of the transitional Darfur regional authority, which will be responsible for implementing the pact. (Posted 6:53 p.m.)
Hayden seeks to allay senators' concerns about his CIA nomination
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gen. Michael Hayden made the rounds on Capitol Hill Tuesday while his Pentagon boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, dismissed criticism of President Bush's choice to head the CIA as "pedestrian and unimpressive."
Bush's selection of Hayden to succeed Porter Goss as head of the civilian intelligence agency has prompted some concerns that his military standing is inappropriate for the agency's top official.
As he headed to meet with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Hayden told CNN he has not made any decision about resigning his military post to appease those critics.
"I'm just happy to be up here talking to the folks and finding out their concerns right now," he said.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Pat Roberts, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the committee will begin hearings as early as next Tuesday. (Posted 6:32 p.m.)
GOP reaches agreement on tax cuts
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Congressional Republicans agreed Tuesday on a bill that would extend capital gains and dividend tax cuts two years, to 2010, and give more members of the middle class a reprieve from paying the alternative minimum tax.
The House is expected to vote on the $70 million tax cut Wednesday. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said it would come before the Senate "soon" after the House vote.
The measure is expected to easily pass the House and the Senate.
House Majority Leader John Boehner praised the agreement, calling it "a victory for working Americans." But Democrats quickly criticized the measure as more tax cuts for the wealthy. (Posted 6:28 p.m.)
Judge blocks government requirement for grantees to oppose prostitution
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A federal judge Tuesday moved to block a federal policy that requires recipients of federal HIV/AIDS grants to pledge opposition to prostitution or be denied federal funds.
U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero in New York agreed with organizations challenging the requirement, declaring the groups "will suffer irreparable harm from defendant's enforcement of the policy requirement, which is likely to violate the First Amendment." He said he intended to issue a preliminary injunction in two weeks.
The challenge was brought by Open Society Institute (OSI), the Alliance for Open Society International, and Pathfinder International against the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
OSI, funded by liberal philanthropist George Soros, argued the policy to grant funds only to those groups which explicitly oppose commercial sex work and prostitution "weakens efforts to provide lifesaving services and information to sex workers." --From CNN Justice Producer Terry Frieden in Washington (Posted 6:22 p.m.)
EU3, Security Council's permanent five working on approaches to Iran issue
UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- Britain, France and Germany are working on a package of incentives to induce Iran's cooperation on its nuclear program, while the key U.N. Security Council nations work to overcome differences on a resolution demanding that cooperation.
A European official speaking on condition of anonymity said the five permanent members of the Security Council -- the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain -- had agreed to the idea of a "package that sets out for Iran a choice of benefits as well as sanctions."
No specific proposals have yet been spelled out, but ideas include incentives for Iran's civil nuclear program and energy security for the country.
The proposals are being worked on by the political directors of France, Britain and Germany -- known as the EU3 in relation to Iran -- and will be discussed by the foreign ministers of the EU3 countries in Brussels on Monday.
The ideas would then be circulated among the foreign ministers of the permanent five members of the Security Council. --From CNN's Liz Neisloss (Posted 6:10 p.m.)
Senators spar over federal judicial nominee
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republicans and Democrats on a Senate panel laid out sharp partisan lines Tuesday in debating the qualifications of a top White House aide nominated for a prestigious judicial post.
For the second time since 2003, Brett Kavanaugh appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has languished. That court is considered by many the second most prestigious federal judicial panel, after the Supreme Court. Four of the high court's current members served on the D.C. Circuit.
Democrats pressed for a new hearing to question Kavanaugh over what role he may have played in the administration's secret wiretapping program of Americans suspected of terrorist ties, and any dealings with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Republicans accused the other side of trying to score political points by delaying a vote on Kavanaugh. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said Democrats were engaging in "partisan sniping." --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 3:55 p.m.)
Bush touts Medicare drug program, but seniors have doubts
SUN CITY, Fla. (CNN) -- President Bush on Tuesday urged Florida senior citizens to meet next week's deadline for signing up for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit, but a new poll found that seniors are skeptical of the program.
Bush has rejected calls to put off the May 15 deadline, saying seniors need to be prodded to sign up for the program so they can save money . Those who join after that date face a 1 percent penalty per month unless eligible for a low-income benefit program.
A CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation found that 47 percent of seniors polled believed the drug benefit was not working -- and nearly a quarter, 23 percent, said they weren't sure whether it worked. Only 30 percent said they believed the drug benefit was working. The question, posed to 266 seniors, had a sampling error of 6 percentage points. The poll was part of a larger survey conducted Friday through Sunday. (Posted 3:41 p.m.)
Car bomb targets Tal Afar market; 17 dead
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide car bomb killed at least 17 people and wounded 35 others Tuesday at a market in the northern Iraqi city of Tal Afar, Iraqi authorities said.
Kahsro Goran, the deputy governor of Nineveh province, said the blast took place in the Shiite Muslim neighborhood al-Wahda about 7:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET). Police initially reported the blast had targeted a police station.
Goran said women and children were among the dead.
Tal Afar is near the Syrian border, about 45 miles west of the provincial capital Mosul. President Bush recently cited the city as an example of the success of U.S. and Iraqi troops against the insurgency. U.S. and Iraqi troops reclaimed Tal Afar from insurgents in September. (Posted 2:49 p.m.)
Rumsfeld on intelligence from Iran: Must be 'careful' with info from 'closed society'
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked about the credibility of intelligence information coming out of Iran in light of intelligence failures in Iraq, said the mistakes in the run-up to the Iraqi conflict "give one pause."
He cautioned prudence in assessing the Islamic republic -- accused by the West of having ambitions to develop nuclear weapons.
"You're dealing with a closed society there so clearly one has to be very careful," he said, speaking to reporters Tuesday at a news conference.
Regarding the intelligence on Iraq, he said, "It's a tough business. It's a difficult thing to be right all the time. And the information was not correct. Does that give one pause? You bet." (Posted 2:26 p.m.)
Saddam Hussein's American attorney seeks delay, says Iraq trial unfair
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The former U.S. attorney general defending Saddam Hussein against war crimes charges says the trial in Iraq is unfair, and he wants more time before starting to present the former leader's side of the story.
Ramsey Clark said Tuesday he won't be ready May 15, when the defense is scheduled to begin its presentation in Baghdad to the Iraqi Special Tribunal.
At a Washington news conference, Clark spoke darkly about U.S. complicity in a court he does not consider legally validated. In a statement distributed with his remarks, Clark wrote, "The trial is clearly the planned continuation of the essentially unilateral war of aggression waged by the Bush administration against Iraq."
He told reporters the Bush administration is using the tribunal simply "to vindicate its invasion, to validate occupation and to make world believe that the Iraqi people demanded that Saddam Hussein and other leaders in his government be executed." --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 2:17 p.m.)
Rumsfeld decries 'quality of debate' over CIA nomination
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on Tuesday lambasted "the quality of the debate" over the nomination of a four-star general for CIA director as "pedestrian and unimpressive."
Gen. Michael Hayden has been nominated to replace Porter Goss, and some lawmakers have questioned the selection of a military man to be in charge of an intelligence agency.
Some critics have cast the choice as a turf war, with the Pentagon trying to gain more control over intelligence-gathering.
"If you look at the debate and articles in the newspaper and comments that are being made, they are about theoretical conspiracies, theoretical bureaucratic turf fights. they're all off the mark," Rumsfeld said. (Posted 1:27 p.m.)
As Quartet meets, U.S. redirects some canceled Palestinian funding into medical assistance
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States will use some of the money it took back from the Palestinians to provide additional medical assistance amid fears the cutoff in aid to the Hams-led government will spark a health-care crisis in the Palestinian territories.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to introduce the $10 million program to the ministers of the Mideast Quartet meeting Tuesday in New York, State Department officials said.
Rice, along with representatives of Russia, the European Union and U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met Monday with their counterparts from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Arab states are concerned the continued cut off of aid will lead to a collapse of the Palestinian Authority and increase violence in the territories.
While it seeks to address the humanitarian plight of the Palestinians, the United States and its Quartet allies differ over how to deal with the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 1:23 p.m.)
Virginia detective was shot by heavily armed teen gunning for police
FAIRFAX, Va. (CNN) -- The gunman who opened fire outside a Fairfax County Police station, killing a detective and wounding two other officers Monday afternoon, was an 18-year-old dressed in military-style clothes and armed with five handguns, two rifles and bags of ammunition, officials said.
"He was very determined and he was targeting police officers," said Bob Callahan, commander of the Fairfax County Police Criminal Investigation Bureau.
Michael Kennedy, 18, fired at least 70 rounds before he was killed by officers who responded to the shootout in the back parking lot of the Sully District police station in Chantilly, Va., Callahan said.
The dead teenager, just a year out of high school, had been released from jail on bond just two weeks ago after Fairfax County police arrested him on a Montgomery County carjacking warrant, Callahan said. None of the officers he shot were involved in that arrest, he said. (Posted 12:25 p.m.)
Chief Justice Roberts' top aide announces resignation
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Chief Justice John Roberts will have another opportunity to put a distinctive stamp on his new job, following word Tuesday the Supreme Court's current chief of staff will soon be leaving.
Sally Rider serves as the top aide to Roberts, helping him in his managerial oversight of the high court and the entire federal judiciary. She served in the same capacity for five years under William Rehnquist, who died last September of thyroid cancer.
Rider stayed on the job at Roberts' request when he took over, and court sources credit her for helping him greatly in the transition. However, it was widely expected she would leave the court this summer, giving the chief justice a chance to further shape his key administrative staff. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 12:17 p.m.)
Hayden seeks to allay senators' concerns about his CIA nomination
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gen. Michael Hayden is making the rounds on Capitol Hill Tuesday, listening to the concerns of lawmakers about his nomination by President Bush to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
As he headed to meet with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Hayden told CNN he has not made any decision about resigning his military post to appease critics who are concerned about placing an active military general in charge of the civilian spy agency.
Speaking to reporters before meeting with Hayden, Frist reiterated his support of the nomination and played down criticism about Hayden's position as an Air Force general.
Earlier, Hayden had a brief meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has voiced support for the nomination but said she is concerned about "the encroachment of defense on intelligence."
Hayden is also scheduled to meet with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. -- the acting ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- who is withholding any comment on Hayden's nomination. (Posted 12:10 p.m.)
14 slain bodies found in Iraq; judge, bakery worker gunned down
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Police found 14 slain bodies in the capital and in a Wasit province town, and attackers shot dead a judge and a bakery worker in Baghdad, police said.
A judge at the Adhamiya civil court in Baghdad was shot dead at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in western Baghdad's Hamra neighborhood. He was identified as Mouhaiman Mahmoud Abbod.
Gunmen killed the bakery worker in southern Baghdad's Dora neighborhood about 10 a.m. Tuesday
More bodies were dumped in and near Baghdad on Tuesday, a common occurrence thought to be the result of Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence. (Posted 10:59 a.m.)
White House says issue is whether Iran will respond to international demands
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Asked Tuesday if President Bush will respond to the letter from Iran, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said:
"(It's) not an issue of whether we respond, it is an issue of whether the regime will respond to the demands of the international community. The international community is concerned about the regime's pursuit of nuclear weapons under the cover of a civilian program." (Posted 10:50 a.m.)
Hayden makes rounds on Capitol Hill
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Gen. Michael Hayden is making the rounds on Capitol Hill Tuesday, a day after President Bush officially announced him as the nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency.
He met with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who has expressed support for his nomination, despite concerns from fellow lawmakers about appointing a military man to head a civilian spy agency.
Later in the day, Hayden is scheduled to meet with Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. -- the acting ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- who is withholding any comment on Hayden's nomination.
The general will also talk with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., who supports his nomination. (Posted 10:39 a.m.)
Noriega has parole hearing Tuesday
MIAMI (CNN) -- For the fourth time since he's been incarcerated, former Panamanian Gen. Manuel Noriega is to go before a parole examiner Tuesday as he attempts to gain his freedom, this time just 16 months before his mandatory release date.
Noriega, 70, has been in U.S. custody since 1990, just after the 1989 U.S. invasion of Panama. He was tried and convicted in U.S. District Court in Miami in 1992 on drug trafficking and money laundering charges.
He was given a 30-year term, but because he was sentenced under the old federal sentencing guidelines, he has been eligible for "gain time" and has a mandatory release date of Sept. 9, 2007.
However, Panama has requested his extradition back to that country, where he was convicted in absentia for the killings of the soldiers who led a coup against him. (Posted 10:30 a.m.)
Authorities hunting for security guard in Baghdad blast at mosque complex
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The Iraqi Interior Ministry says it is searching for a security guard in connection with an explosion Sunday at a roadside-bomb workshop at an eastern Baghdad mosque.
The explosion occurred within the Sheikh Abdel Kader mosque compound in the neighborhood of Rusafa. The workshop was in a school basement in the mosque complex.
One person was killed and two others were wounded in the blast. The wounded people were in a hospital for treatment but are to be detained for questioning by authorities when they are released.
An arrest warrant has been issued for the chief of the security guards, who had a basement office near the workshop. Two security guards at the mosque also were detained and were being questioned. (Posted, 9:51 a.m.)
American soldier killed in Iraq
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed on Monday after a roadside bombing in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
This brings the number of U.S. military killed in the Iraq war to 2,423.
Iraq's prime minister-designate: Proposed government could be ready for approval
BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister-designate said Tuesday lawmakers are making progress in forming a government, announcing that more than 90 percent of the Cabinet posts have been filled and a new four-year national unity administration could be completed in a few days.
Two main positions -- the ministries of Interior and Defense -- will be occupied by "independent candidates," not to a candidate put up by a particular political bloc, Nuri al-Maliki said.
Among the ministries that have not been filled are Trade and Transportation, he said.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Baghdad, he said the positions are being filled by consensus among the various lawmakers and political blocs.
The Cabinet list must be presented to the 275-member Council of Representatives by May 22, a deadline stipulated by Iraq's constitution. There are expected to be more than three dozen ministries in the government. -- From Producer Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted, 8 a.m.)
Coalition airstrike in Afghanistan near Pakistani border kills 4 insurgents, targets cave complex
(CNN) -- A coalition airstrike in southeastern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border Monday killed four insurgents and pounded a cave complex used by militants, the coalition command in Kabul said Tuesday.
A U.S. Air Force A-10 fighter aircraft and a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle struck a cave complex in the Bermel District of Paktika province with precision-guided munitions, "effectively sealing the cave for future use."
Paktika, in southeastern Afghanistan, is on the border with Pakistan, a long, mountainous stretch where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and Taliban and other militants have been thought to be hiding. (Posted, 8 a.m.)
Suspected planner of Sinai bombings killed in Egypt
CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- The leader of the terrorist group blamed for recent bombing attacks in the Sinai peninsula was killed Tuesday in a clash with Egyptian security forces, the Egyptian interior ministry reported.
Nasser Khamis el-Mallahi, 30, the leader of Tawhid wal Jihad, was killed and a top aide -- Abdallah Alyan Abu Jarair -- was captured in the clash, the ministry said.
Egyptian officials said el-Mallahi was the "mastermind" of the April 24 triple bombings in the Egyptian tourist spot of Dahab, which killed 19 people.
The gunbattle took place near the town of Al-Arish, where el-Mallahi and Abu Jarair are from, in the country's northern Sinai peninsula
The ministry praised the role of local residents for helping track down the men. --From CNN Cairo Bureau Chief Ben Wedeman (Updated, 8:48 a.m.)
Militant groups clash in Gaza City
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian militant groups battled for a second day in Gaza as part of a series of tit-for-tat clashes between members of Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian security sources said Tuesday.
The skirmishes took place in the Gaza City neighborhood of El-Tufah after Hamas militants kidnapped a member of Fatah, the sources said. In return, Fatah militants took five members of Hamas.
Injured in the fighting were five adults, including three militants, and five children, hospital officials said.
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. (Posted 5 a.m.)
Suspected Russian mafia boss arrested in the Middle East
MADRID (CNN) - An alleged top Russian mafia boss wanted on a Spanish arrest warrant has been arrested at a luxury hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, a Spanish court source told CNN on Tuesday.
According to the source, the suspect, Zahar Knyazevich Kalashov, was arrested Monday.
Spain's National Court, which handles cases of organized crime, issued an arrest warrant for Kalashov last year after Spanish police arrested about 20 alleged Russian and Georgian mafia operatives in the Barcelona area.
Kalashov avoided arrest at that time, but international police cooperation led the case to Dubai, where he allegedly was to take part in an international meeting of suspected Russian mafia leaders, said the source, who works at the National Court. (posted 4 a.m.)
Key suspect in Varanasi bombings killed in Kashmir
SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- Indian police shot and killed a man believed to be a key conspirator in the March bombings in the holy city of Varanasi that killed 14 people, Jammu and Kashmir police said Tuesday.
Acting on an intelligence tip, Mohammad Zubair was located by security forces in the village of Haran Chowgal, near the Line of Control separating Indian- and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and was killed in a fierce gunbattle late Monday night.
"He was the main organizer and conspirator of the March 7 Varanasi blasts this year in which 14 persons were killed and more than 50 others wounded," said K. Rajendra, inspector general of the Kashmir range police.
According to Rajendra, Zubair had been hiding out in the area since shortly after a trio of bombings in Uttar Pardesh state. The first blast was in the Hindu Sankat Mochan temple. The other two blasts occurred at a railway station where an express train was boarding. A fourth bomb was defused. (Posted 3:26 a.m.)
No agreement by world powers over strategy for Iran
NEW YORK (CNN) -- World powers meeting in New York failed to reach an agreement on a U.N. resolution on Iran Monday and will probably not have a text this week, a senior State Department official said after the talks finished for the night.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her counterparts from Russia, Britain, France, China and Germany, along with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, met for three hours Monday in what was described by Rice's aides as a "strategic discussion" on how to deal with Iran.
A senior State Department official briefing reporters after the meeting said the ministers did not discuss the text of a U.N. resolution currently being debated on Iran, but rather their long-term goals in dealing with Tehran.
The talks also addressed Iran's support for terrorism and the government's human rights record. The official said while there was wide agreement that Iran should not acquire a nuclear weapon and on the need for Tehran to suspend its uranium enrichment program, cooperate with the IAEA and return to negotiations, there was no agreement on the contents of a Security Council resolution.
"I think the prospects for an agreement this week are not substantially good," the official said. "Clearly we had a ways to go." The official said the nations' political directors will continue to meet on Wednesday and possibly again next week in Europe. (Posted 2:45 a.m.)
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