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Sunday, May 21

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.

Attorney says his client indicted for murder in Holloway case

(CNN) -- A man in custody in the Netherlands has been indicted on charges of murder and manslaughter in the disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway in Aruba, the man's attorney confirmed.

Gerard Spong said his client was questioned as a witness in the case last June shortly after the 18-year-old disappeared, but he is now a suspect. Spong said his client, who worked in a casino on the island, is proclaiming his innocence and says he never met Holloway.

The attorney said he will try to prevent his client's extradition to Aruba. "Tomorrow I will ask the court in the Hague to give a decision that it is not allowed to take him from the Netherlands to Aruba because I think that we can prove or make sure that he is not guilty," Spong told Dutch television on Sunday.

The man in custody is an acquaintance of Joran van der Sloot, who was once a focus of the investigation into Holloway's 2005 disappearance, a source close to the case told CNN.

It is the eighth arrest made in the case; all others, including Van Der Sloot, have been released. Van Der Sloot, the son of an Aruban judge, was one of three young men last seen with the Alabama teenager in Oranjestad, Aruba on May 30, 2005. All three have maintained their innocence, and no one has been charged in Holloway's disappearance. (Posted 2:43 a.m.)

Blast, carbon monoxide killed Kentucky miners, coroner says

HOLMES MILL, Ky. (CNN) -- Two of the five miners who died in a Kentucky coal mine explosion were killed by the blast, while the remaining men died of carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation, the county coroner said Sunday.

The bodies of miners George Petra, of Kenvir, Ky. ; Paris Thomas Jr.; and Roy Middleton, both of Evarts -- were found with their respirators on after early Saturday's explosion at the Darby Mine No. 1, Harlan County Coroner Phillip Bianchi said.

The remaining two men -- Amon Brock, of Closplint, and Jimmy D. Lee, of Wallins Creek -- suffered burns and multiple blunt injuries, Bianchi told CNN.

The blast happened about 1 a.m. Saturday during a maintenance shift, when no coal was being produced, investigators said. One miner survived the blast and may hold the key to what happened, said Ray McKinney, administrator for Coal Mine Safety and Health for the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration.

McKinney said the investigation in the mine itself would begin immediately after the ventilation system is reconstructed.

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher told CNN that the accident was "very similar" to January's disaster at the Sago Mine in West Virginia, where 12 men died.

Like the Sago accident, a methane leak is being blamed for the Kentucky explosion, Fletcher said Saturday. (Posted 1:04 a.m.)

Officials believe 57 miners trapped in flooded mine in China

BEIJING (CNN) -- As many as 57 miners may be trapped in a flooded coal mine in northern China, China's official news agency Xinhua reported Sunday.

When the Xinjing Coal Mine in Zuoyun County in north China's Shanxi Province first flooded Thursday night, initial reports said 44 miners were trapped.

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

As many as 100 other miners escaped the mine when the floodwaters rushed in.

Li Yizhong, director of the State Administration of Work Safety, blamed the accident on "excessive production" in the mine, which has an annual production capacity of 90,000 tons, the Xinhua report said.

Xinhua said there were reports that there was illegal mining beyond the approved coal seams in the mine. The incident is under investigation, the news agency reported, and police have detained some mine officials for questioning. (Posted 1:01 a.m.)

Stricken Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro survives surgery

(CNN) -- Kentucky Derby-winning racehorse Barbaro survived nearly six hours of surgery and was standing Sunday night after the Triple Crown contender broke three bones in its right hind leg during the Preakness, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The 3-year-old thoroughbred appeared to have been hurt "a couple strides out of the gate" in Saturday's race in Baltimore, trainer Michael Matz said. Dr. Dean Richardson, the chief of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center for Large Animals, said Barbaro suffered fractures at three points and the injuries were "about as bad as it could be."

Gail Luciani, a spokeswoman for the facility, said the horse survived extensive surgery -- but that was only the beginning of what could be months of rehabilitation.

Barbaro won a solid victory in the Kentucky Derby on May 6 and was the favorite in Saturday's running of the Preakness, the second event in horse racing's Triple Crown. Bernardini, a 12-1 longshot, went on to win the Preakness. (Posted 9:45 p.m.)

Re-elected Nagin predicts 'vibrant' New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS (CNN) -- Newly re-elected Mayor Ray Nagin predicted Sunday that 300,000 people would be back in the hurricane-ravaged city by year's end but said residents of some neighborhoods might yet abandon them.

Nagin was widely criticized for his response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, but he eked out a narrow win in Saturday's runoff against Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu after facing 22 challengers in March. He told reporters Sunday that New Orleans was ready to take off, with levee reparations underway and financial incentives for businesses and residents in place.

"I see New Orleans after the next three years as a pretty vibrant city," he said. I'm serious -- I'll bet anyone in here a dollar that at the end of the year, New Orleans will have at least 300,000 people living and working in the city."

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. Xavier University pollster Silas Lee said Nagin beat expectations by winning re-election, but added, "Right now, voters want to see a plan articulated -- an agenda and a timetable." (Posted 9:15 p.m.)

Early results favor Montenegro independence

PODGORICA, Serbia-Montenegro (CNN) -- Voters in Montenegro have decided narrowly to sever the country's union with Serbia, a move that would break up the last two pieces of the former Yugoslavia, unofficial poll returns from Sunday's referendum indicated.

The election watchdog group CEMI said late Sunday that 55.5 percent of the more than 410,000 voters who cast ballots supported independence -- just over the 55 percent required for the question to pass.

"I'm sure that tonight a democratic Montenegro will be celebrated," said Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, an advocate of independence. Though official results are not expected until Monday, people began celebrating inside government buildings Sunday night, and fireworks illuminated the center of the capital.

Djukanovic argued the country would have a better chance of joining the European Union if separated from Serbia. That argument was bolstered in the last month, when Serbia's government failed to deliver former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic to a U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague. (Update 7:45 p.m.)

Court papers: Feds found $90k in congressman's freezer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Federal agents found $90,000 in cash last year in the Washington home of a Louisiana congressman under investigation for bribery, according to court papers released Sunday.

FBI agents finished a separate search of the Capitol Hill office of Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., on Sunday. In a 95-page affidavit used to obtain a warrant for that search, investigators stated that an August 2005 search of Jefferson's home turned up $90,000 in a freezer in Jefferson's home.

Agents told a judge the money was part of a $100,000 payment that had been delivered by an informant in the bribery probe, which already has led to guilty pleas by a Kentucky businessman and a former Jefferson aide. The eight-term congressman, whose district includes New Orleans and some of its suburbs, has denied any wrongdoing and vowed to remain in office to battle any criminal charges he may face. (Posted 5:10 p.m.)

5 dead in Baton Rouge shooting; 4 of those killed in a church

(CNN) -- A lone gunman fatally shot four people Sunday in a church in Baton Rouge, La., then drove off with his wife, whom he shot dead outside a nearby apartment building, police said.

In an interview with Fox News Channel, Baton Rouge Police Chief Jeff LeDuff identified the suspect as Anthony Bell, 25, of Baton Rouge.

A fifth person in the church was wounded, LeDuff said. That person, "we believe, will be OK," he said.

"This doesn't happen very often in our city," LeDuff said. "We are in total disbelief." (Posted 3:25 p.m.)

Survey: U.S. gas prices dip

(CNN) -- Retail gasoline prices fell nearly 1.5 cents during the past two weeks, to $2.93 per gallon of self-serve regular, a national survey said Sunday.

"Both gasoline supply and the use rate of U.S. refining capacity are looking good -- they're both normal," said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the "Lundberg Survey," which tallies prices every two to three weeks at about 5,000 gas stations across the country.

The survey's latest tally, carried out May 19, showed prices had dropped 1.45 cents from May 5, she said.

Wichita drivers paid the least, at $2.59 per gallon of self-serve regular, and San Diego drivers the most, at $3.40, she said.

Here are the average prices for a gallon of regular gas in other U.S. cities:

-- St. Louis: $2.71

-- Minneapolis: $2.72

-- Denver: $2.75

-- Atlanta: $2.81

-- Houston: $2.93

-- Boston: $3.01

-- Long Island: $3.21

(Posted 2:45 p.m.)

Sources: Rebel commander shot dead in Sri Lanka

(CNN) -- A rebel commander from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam known as Ramanan was shot and killed by sniper fire Sunday evening, Sri Lankan military sources said.

The former intelligence cadre -- known as Ramanan -- was the military commander for Batticaloa South and was inspecting rebel defenses when he was shot, the sources said.

Batticaloa is one of the main cities on Sri Lanka's east coast.

It is unclear who is responsible for his death. The military sources said the assailants are not known. The LTTE could not be reached for comment.

A cease-fire brokered by Norway in 2002 has broken down in recent weeks after rebel attacks and government reprisals against Tamil strongholds.

LTTE rebels, known as the Tamil TIgers, have been seeking their own Tamil homeland in the north and east of the island nation, which lies to the south of India. -- From Journalist Iqbal Athas (Posted 2:15 p.m.)

Source: Dutch police make arrest in Holloway case

(CNN) -- Dutch police have arrested an acquaintance of Joran van der Sloot, who was once a focus of the investigation into last year's disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway on the island of Aruba, a source close to the case told CNN.

The arrest was carried out last week in the Netherlands, said the source, who did not have any other details.

It is the eighth arrest made in the case; all others, including Van Der Sloot, have been released.

Van Der Sloot, the son of an Aruban judge, was one of three young men last seen with the Alabama teenager in Oranjestad, Aruba on May 30, 2005.

All three have maintained their innocence, and no one has been charged in Holloway's disappearance. -- From CNN's Eric Marrapodi (Posted 2 p.m.)

Kuwait's ruler dissolves parliament

(CNN) -- Kuwait's ruler, Sheik Sabah Al Ahmed Al Sabah, dissolved parliament Sunday and called early elections amid a dispute between the government and lawmakers over electoral reform, the information ministry said.

He ordered parliamentary elections set for June 29 -- moved up from summer 2007, as originally planned.

The emir's move was the latest trouble in the sometimes stormy relationship between Kuwait's parliament and its ruling family as the country tries to respond to demands for greater democracy.

Sunday's move was the fourth time an emir dissolved parliament since it was created in 1963 -- at times leaving the country without a legislature for years. In each previous time, dissolution came after lawmakers criticized attempts to remove government ministers, the ministry said. (Posted 2 p.m.)

Palestinian president meets with top Israeli officials

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday met on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum with two high-level Israeli officials in the first such meeting since Hamas took control of the Palestinian government.

Following his informal meeting with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Abbas said he hoped to restart stalled peace process, which was thrown into further jeopardy after Hamas -- which calls for the destruction of Israel -- took control of the Palestinian Authority two months ago.

"We would like to start a new chapter with the Israeli government to start negotiations based on the road map," Abbas said, following the talks in the Egyptian Red Sea resort town of Sharm El-Sheikh.

Abbas, a member of the ousted Fatah party, is "the only avenue that remains open to talk," Peres told CNN.

Peres, a former Israeli prime minister, did not detail what was discussed between the leaders, saying, "We agreed on some measures that can be taken because there is no difference between him and us when it comes to fighting terror."

However, in an interview on Thursday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed the Palestinian leader as "powerless" and unable to "seriously negotiate with Israel." (Updated 2 p.m.)

Israel: Iran is months away from getting the bomb

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran is only months away from joining the club of nations that can make a nuclear bomb, Israel's prime minister said in a recent interview.

"The technological threshold is very close," Ehud Olmert told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" in an interview taped on Thursday.

"It can be measured by months rather than years."

Asked whether he believes President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would halt Iran's nuclear enrichment program under pressures from the United States, the United Nations and the Europeans, Olmert said, "I prefer to take the necessary measures to stop it, rather than to find out later that my indifference was so dangerous."

In an allusion to the Holocaust, in which 6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II, he said, "In modern times, we have to remember what happened when the world did not listen to dictators threatening other nations (with) annihilation."

Ahmadinejad has called for the destruction of Israel and raised questions about whether the Holocaust actually happened. (Posted 2 p.m.)

Spain's government ready for talks with Basque separatist group

MADRID (CNN) - Spain's prime minister announced Sunday that the government is ready to start peace talks with the Basque separatist group ETA, the strongest indication so far that he believes ETA's "permanent" cease-fire declared two months ago is indeed holding.

On his first trip to the troubled northern Basque region since ETA's cease-fire declaration on March 22, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said he will inform Spain's parliament of the government's intentions.

"Today I want to say, in keeping with my earlier announcement, that next month I will communicate to the political parties the start of the process of dialogue toward the end of the violence with ETA," Zapatero said.

ETA is blamed for more than 800 deaths in its long fight for Basque independence. It is classified as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States. -- From CNN Madrid Bureau Chief Al Goodman (Posted, 9:09 a.m.)

Bush congratulates Iraqi leadership on formation of unity government

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day after Iraq's parliament approved the country's new government, President Bush Sunday praised the country's elected leadership for working together, and proclaimed it "a new day for the millions of Iraqis who want to live in freedom."

"The formation of the unity governement in Iraq begins a new chapter in our relationship with Iraq," Bush said in a live statement from the White House with the first lady by his side.

Bush said he telephoned Prime Minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki, as well as Iraq's president and speaker, on Sunday morning "to congratulate them on working together to form the unity government."

"I assured them that the United States will continue to assist the Iraqis in the formation of a free country because I fully understand that a free Iraq will be important ally in the war on terror, will serve as a devastating defeat for the terrorists and Al Qaeda, and will serve as an example for others in the region who desire to be free." (Posted 8:49 a.m.)

Suicide bomber in restaurant, roadside bomb, car bomb kill 17 Iraqis

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 17 Iraqis were killed in three separate attacks in Baghdad Sunday, police officials said.

Thirteen people were killed and 18 others wounded when a suicide bomber exploded himself in the Safwan restaurant in central Baghdad's al-Wahdah neighborhood around 1 p.m., an official with Baghdad emergency police told CNN.

The restaurant is located just behind a police station and is frequented by police, the official said. Iraqi police were among the dead and wounded, the official added.

Three people were killed and 17 wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in a crowded market in southeastern Baghdad, an official with Baghdad police headquarters told CNN. The explosion occurred around 10:30 a.m. in the al-Jadida neighborhood, the official said.

Meanwhile, one person was killed and 15 were wounded Sunday when a car bomb exploded in northwest Baghdad's Shula neighborhood around 12:15 p.m., the official reported.

In southwestern Baghdad, five civilians were wounded when a bomb targeting an Iraqi police patrol exploded in the Saydiya neighborhood around 8 a.m. Sunday, the official said. The bomb missed the patrol. (Posted 6:40 a.m.)

Suspected suicide car bomb explosion in Afghanistan kills 2, injures 6

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An explosion of a suspected suicide car bomber killed two Afghans and wounded six others Sunday, an ISAF spokesman said.

The explosion occurred at 11:20 a.m. local time east of Kabul on Jalalabad Road, the spokesman said. ISAF forces deployed to the scene, and security and medical personnel were treating the wounded, ISAF and coalition spokespeople said. (Posted 5:07 a.m.)

Oil tank explodes in Japan

TOKYO (CNN) -- An oil tank owned by the Toa Oil Corp. exploded Sunday in Kawasaki but caused no injuries or deaths, local officials said.

The extent of the damage caused by the 3 p.m. (2 a.m. ET) explosion was not immediately clear. The flames were extinguished by firefighters on the scene, officials said, but white smoke is still coming from the site. (Posted 5:06 a.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. (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. (Updated, 8:30 a.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.)

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