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Saturday, May 20

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.

Irish police end church standoff with Afghan refugees demanding asylum

DUBLIN (CNN) -- The week-long hunger strike by a group of Afghan asylum seekers holed up in in Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral ended peacefully Saturday evening, a journalist at the scene said.

The standoff began a week ago when the group of about 41 males -- ranging in age from 16 to 45 -- refused to leave the church until all of them were granted asylum by the Irish government. The seven youngest voluntarily left in ambulances for treatment for dehydration at a hospital Saturday evening.

Soon after that, a large number of Irish police moved in to remove the men who remained inside, according to radio reporter Fergal O'Brien. Despite earlier threats of violence, the men did not resist when police removed them from the church, O'Brien said.

All 33 of the men who remained in the church appeared in court early Sunday. All were released on bail and ordered to return to court Thursday. The exact charges against them are not known.

When the standoff began May 14, they said they feared for their lives if forced to return to Afghanistan and would rather die of starvation in Ireland, O'Brien said. It was not clear if there were any special circumstances concerning the men that would make them more likely to be targeted for attacks in their home country, O'Brien said.

The Church of Ireland conducted talks with the men for the first five days, until Ireland's Department of Justice intervened and the Gardi -- Ireland's national police -- moved in. (Posted 1:08 a.m.)

Nagin re-elected as New Orleans mayor in narrow victory

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- With a margin of less than 5,400 votes, incumbent Mayor Ray Nagin was re-elected on Saturday for another four-year term in a city still limping from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

His opponent, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, conceded the race shortly after 10 p.m. (11 p.m. ET) and asked the residents of New Orleans to come together to support Nagin and his administration.

"We have an opportunity... to put away the twin cousins of race and poverty, and to replace them with the siblings of opportunity and responsibility," he told his supporters.

With all of the city's 442 polling stations reporting, Nagin won 59,460 votes (52 percent) to Landrieu's 54,131 (48 percent) -- a difference of 5,329, according to the secretary of state's office.

About 24,000 absentee ballots were sent in by residents who were relocated to other cities by Hurricane Katrina

Nagin said his victory set the stage for the city's recovery.

"This is a great day for the city of New Orleans. This election is over, and it's time for this community to start the healing process," Nagin told supporters at his campaign headquarters.

The mayor said the city was ready to take off, with levee reparations underway and financial incentives for businesses and residents, and he thanked President Bush for making that happen -- despite having blasted the president in the immediate aftermath of Katrina for not doing enough to help those affected by the storm.

"You and I have probably been the most vilified politicians in the country. But I want to thank you for moving that promise you made in Jackson Square forward," Nagin said of the president's Sept. 15 speech from the city's French Quarter, in which he pledged to "do what it takes" to rebuild New Orleans in the wake of Katrina. (Posted 12:52 a.m.)

Landrieu concedes to Nagin in New Orleans Mayor race

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu conceded defeat to Mayor Ray Nagin in the New Orleans Mayor race.

Landrieu called on his followers to support Nagin in rebuilding the city from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. (Posted 11:17 p.m.)

China mine accident traps 44 miners

BEIJING (CNN) -- Water flooded a coal mine in northern China Friday, trapping 44 of the miners underground, according to China's official news agency Xinhua.

Officials did not know if the trapped miners were still alive but a rescue effort was under way on Monday, the report said.

Another 101 miners inside the mine at the time of the accident escaped to the surface.

The news agency said the head of the coal mine was in hiding. The mine is in Zuoyun County in north China's Shanxi Province, the report said. (Posted 11:08 p.m.)

FBI searches Capitol Hill office in bribery probe

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- FBI agents were on Capitol Hill Saturday night searching the office of Rep. William Jefferson as part of the bribery investigation of the Louisiana Democrat, according to government officials.

Jefferson's New Orleans home was searched last August, but this is the first time ever the FBI has searched the Capitol Hill office of a congressman, according to one government official.

FBI spokeswoman Deborah Weierman said the search of Jefferson's office in the Rayburn Office Building began at 7:15 p.m. Saturday and was expected to continue for several hours. The search warrant was sealed but a portion of it would be made public once the search is complete, she said.

The Justice Department has been investigating Rep. Jefferson's relationship to telecommunications deals in Africa and elsewhere and the House Ethics Committee launched an investigation of him last week.

A Louisville, Kentucky, man pleaded guilty in federal court this month to bribing the congressman with more than $400,000 in payments, company stock and a share of the profits to promote a Kentucky company's high-tech business ventures in Africa.

In a news conference last week, Jefferson said he was innocent and that he would remain in office while he fights any charges. (Posted 8:35 p.m.)

Irish police end church standoff with Afghan refugees demanding asylum

DUBLIN (CNN) -- The week-long hunger strike by a group of Afghan asylum seekers holed up in in Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral ended peacefully Saturday evening, a journalist at the scene said.

The standoff began a week ago when the group of about 41 males -- ranging in age from 16 to 45 -- refused to leave the church until all of them were granted asylum by the Irish government.

The seven youngest voluntarily left in ambulances for treatment for dehydration at a hospital Saturday evening. Soon after that, a large number of Irish police moved in to remove the 30 men who remained inside, according to radio reporter Fergal O'Brien. (Posted 6:20 p.m.)

Irish police poised to end church standoff with Afghan refugees demanding asylum

DUBLIN (CNN) -- Seven of the youngest asylum seekers holed up on a hunger strike in Dublin's St. Patrick's Cathedral were taken to a hospital Saturday evening, and a large number of Irish police appeared ready to move in to remove the 30 men who remained inside, a journalist at the scene said.

The standoff began a week ago when the group of about 41 males -- ranging in age from 16 to 45 -- refused to leave the church until all of them were granted asylum by the Irish government.

They said they feared for their lives if forced to return to Afghanistan and would rather die of starvation in Ireland, radio reporter Fergal O'Brien said. (Posted 5:53 p.m.)

2 French soldiers killed in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- Two French special forces soldiers were killed during clashes with the Taliban in southern Afghanistan region of Kandahar, according to the French Defense Ministry.

Another soldier was injured, the ministry said.

This brings to seven the number of French troops who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom since Oct. 7, 2001. (Posted 5:29 p.m.)

DiMaggio's World Series uniform sells for 195K

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The uniform Joe DiMaggio wore in his final World Series appearance in 1951 was auctioned for $195,500 on Saturday in New York, according to Hunt Auctions, Inc. spokesperson Katie Leighton.

The pinstriped uniform, which DiMaggio wore during the Yankees defeat of the New York Giants, was purchased by an anonymous bidder.

Among the other items auctioned were Joe DiMaggio's 1947 MVP award plaque for $281,750. (Posted 4:35 p.m.)

Blast at Ky. mine kills 5, 1 survives

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A deadly explosion at an eastern Kentucky coal mine early Saturday killed five miners, while a sixth survived, a Mine Safety and Health Administration official confirmed.

Ray McKinney, administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health for MSHA, said four of the victims were found "in close proximity" about 3,000 feet underground.

The fifth victim was found in another location in the mine, he said. The blast occurred in Harlan County at the Darby Mine No. 1 about 1 a.m., McKinney said.

The survivor was found about approximately 15 feet from a mine portal, he said. (Posted 4:25 p.m.)

In Baghdad: Sadr City blast kills 22; dozen slain bodies found

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An explosion Saturday in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood killed 22 people and wounded 58, police said.

The roadside bombing at about 6:30 a.m. apparently targeted laborers. It took place in a well-known area near a bus station in which people gather in the morning to eat breakfast before work.

Also on Saturday, 12 slain bodies were found in various locations of the capital. All were shot in the head and some showed signs of torture, police said. (Posted 2:34 p.m.)

Palestinian sources: Senior Islamic Jihad militant, 3 others killed in Gaza City airstrike

JERUSALEM (CNN) --An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday killed Islamic Jihad's most senior militant in the Gaza coastal area, Palestinian sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed it conducted an airstrike targeting and killing Mohammed Al Dahdouh, who was in a car.

Palestinian sources identified Al Dahdouh as a fatality and said three others were killed in the strike -- a woman, her 4-year-old son, and the boy's grandmother, all of whom were in a car behind behind the militant. (Posted 2:09 p.m.)

Report: China rescues 97 Vietnamese fishermen in South China Sea

BEIJING (CNN) -- Chinese crews rescued 97 Vietnamese fishermen in the South China Sea on Saturday, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

However, 18 have died and more than 200 are missing, a Xinhua report said, citing the China Rescue and Salvage Bureau.

The incident took place in the area of Dongsha Islands. (Posted 1:57 p.m.)

Iraqi Cabinet: Ethnic, political, religious diversity, but only a handful of women

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's new Cabinet reflects the society's dominant ethnic and religious groups, an administration that contains a cross-section of Kurds and Arabs, and Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

But Shiites are predominant on the list, reflecting their strong showing in the Dec. 15 parliament election and their large population as well; an estimated 60 percent of Iraqis are Shiites.

Also, the Cabinet is top-heavy with males.

This is the face of the new government, which will rule Iraq during a full four-year term. It was presented to the 275-member Council of Representatives, which OK'd the body. (Posted 1:48 p.m.)

Palestinian sources: Senior Islamic Jihad militant, 2 others killed in Gaza City airstrike

JERUSALEM (CNN) --An Israeli airstrike in Gaza City on Saturday killed Islamic Jihad's most senior militant in the Gaza coastal area, Israeli and Palestinians sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces confirmed it conducted an airstrike targeting Mohammed Al Dahdouh.

Palestinian sources also identified Al Dahdouh as a fatality and said two others were killed in the strike, a woman and her 4-year-old son in the car behind the militant.

Earlier Palestinian sources incorrectly said the victim was a Hamas commander. (Posted 12:49 p.m.)

3 dead in Gaza City blast; IDF confirms airstrike in Gaza City

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israel Defense Forces confirmed it carried out an airstrike on Saturday in Gaza City after a trio of people died in a blast.

Palestinian security sources said explosion in Gaza City killed at least three people, an incident that various reports say is the result of an Israeli airstrike.

A car exploded in the incident. (Posted 12:02)

Khalilzad: With new government, troop 'downsizing' a brighter light at end of tunnel

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Zalmay Khalilzad -- the U.S. ambassador to Iraq who prodded divisive Iraqi lawmakers into forging compromises that led to the formation of a new government -- said the advent of the new administration would establish conditions that could lead to the possibility of U.S. troop "downsizing."

Speaking to reporters on Saturday after Iraq's parliament approved the new government, Khalilzad said an environment of governmental national unity is expected to spur change.

"Conditions are likely to move in the right direction and that would allow adjustments in terms of size, composition and mission of our forces," said Khalilzad. (Posted 10:40 a.m.)

Blast at Ky. mine kills 5

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A deadly explosion at an eastern Kentucky coal mine early Saturday killed five miners, a Mine Safety and Health Administration official confirmed.

Amy Louviere, whose agency is part of the Labor Department, confirmed to CNN that the blast occurred in Harlan County at the Darby Mine No. 1 between midnight and 1 a.m.

She said a maintenance shift was on duty. One person was able to get out of the mine. (Posted 10:10 a.m.)

Top British diplomat welcomes new Iraq government, says developing democracy is 'not going to be an easy road'

LONDON (CNN) -- The British foreign secretary on Saturday welcomed the establishment of Iraq's new government but noted that developing democracy "is not going to be an easy road" for the fledgling administration.

"I warmly welcome the Council of Representatives' decision to endorse the new Iraqi government under Prime Minister Nuri Kamil al-Maliki," said Margaret Beckett in a statement, referring to parliament's approval earlier today of al-Maliki's Cabinet nominations.

Her remarks -- posted on the Foreign Office Web site -- were congratulatory but cautionary. "I want to take this opportunity to offer our continued support and friendship to Prime Minister Maliki and his colleagues as they work for a unified Iraq in which all Iraqis share its wealth and which respects fundamental human rights and the rule of law,."

She said Iraqis now face a daunting chapter -- "the challenging road of democratic politics. " "This is not going to be an easy road. In Britain it has taken centuries to develop our democracy; in Iraq, this process is now firmly under way." (Posted 8:55 a.m.)

Wedding-party truck in India swerves into a valley; 27 people dead

(CNN) -- A truck in India carrying a wedding party of 70 people swerved off a road into a valley, killing 27 people.

The incident took place 11:30 a.m. Saturday nearly 250 miles south of Mumbai, police in India said.

Forty others were taken to a hospital. (Posted 8:01 a.m.)

U.N. official visits Myanmar pro-democracy figure under house arrest

(CNN) -- A U.N. official on Saturday met with Aung San Suu Kyi, the Myanmarese opposition leader under house arrest who has not been allowed to meet with foreigners.

It is the first time the pro-democracy figure, who won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her political work in the Asian nation, has been visited by a foreigner in two years.

A spokesman for her group, the National League for Democracy, said senior U.N. official Ibrahim Gambari met with her for an hour at her villa in a suburb of Myanmar's capital of Yangon.

After the meeting, Gambari's convoy went to the U.N. headquarters in Yangon. Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, borders Thailand, China and India.

U.N. Special Envoy Razali Ismail, who visited Suu Kyi in 2004, was the last foreigner to see her. The United Nations has been urging democratic reforms in authoritarian Myanmar and has been trying to help bring about her release. (Posted 7:46 a.m.)

"Historic day" as Iraqi parliament approves Cabinet

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's parliament Saturday approved the Cabinet presented by Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki, a turning point in the building of Iraq's first democratic government.

Deputy parliament speaker Khalid al-Attiyah declared it a "historic day for Iraq."

Al-Maliki could not fill two critical posts -- defense and interior -- because sectarian and political coalitions have prevented agreement on whom to name. Political wrangling has long been under way over who would fill most of the ministerial positions. Al-Maliki said he would temporarily run the interior ministry, and he made a temporary appointment to the defense ministry. (posted 6:01 a.m.)

Palestinian intel chief wounded in bombing taken to Israeli hospital

GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) -- Palestinian intelligence chief Tareq Abu Rajab was taken to an Israeli hospital Saturday after being seriously wounded in a bombing at his headquarters in Gaza City, Palestinian security sources said.

The blast in the building's elevator killed Rajab's bodyguard and wounded nine people, three of them seriously. It came amid daily violence between members of Hamas, which now runs Palestinian politics, and Fatah, which formerly controlled the government. Rajab is a Fatah loyalist.

The wounded were taken to a Palestinian hospital in Gaza, where Palestinian militants attacked each other, leading to more casualties. It was not immediately known which Israeli hospital Rajab was moved to.

Rajab survived an attempt on his life two years ago, Palestinian security sources said. (posted 5:13 a.m.)

U.S. troop killed, 6 wounded in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- A U.S. soldier was killed Friday and six troops were wounded in fighting in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said.

A joint patrol of Afghan and U.S. troops was on patrol in the Cahar Cineh District of Uruzgan Province "when they encountered enemy forces," the U.S. military said in a statement.

The six wounded troops were evacuated to a nearby medical facility and are in stable condition, the statement said. The troops' names were withheld pending notification fo next-of-kin. (posted 2:16 a.m.)

Sadr City blast kills 19

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An explosion Saturday in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood killed 19 people and wounded 58, police said.

The roadside bombing at about 6:30a.m. (10:30 p.m. Friday ET) apparently targeted laborers. It took place in a well-known area near a bus station in which people gather in the morning to eat breakfast before work.

Sadr City is a Shiite area. (posted 1:09 a.m.)

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