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Saturday, September 2

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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.

IDF: Israeli troops may pull out of Lebanon in 2 weeks

(CNN) -- Israel may pull out all its troops from Lebanon within two weeks if the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon continues to deploy at the current pace, the IDF said Sunday. (Posted 2:53 a.m.)

IDF: weapons storage facility bombed

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli aerial attacks destroyed a building the miliary suspected of housing weapons in northern Gaza Saturday night, Israel Defense Forces said.

The attack was carried out in Al-Atatra, the IDF said.

There was no immediate word on casualties from the airstrike. (Posted 2:46 a.m.)

IDF: 2 terrorist leaders arrested in West Bank

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Two men suspected of heading a terror cell that received funds and guidance from Lebanon's militant group, Hezbollah, were arrested Saturday by Israeli military and supporting security forces, an Israel Defense Forces statement said.

The men, Hassan Ufi and Ta'er Amara, were arrested for heading a terror cell that received funding from Hezbollah to produce low-grade rockets. In addition, Israeli military said the "Tanzim operatives " have attempted to carry out a number of failed rocket attacks.

"In the past months the Hezbollah terror organization has been focusing efforts to develop the terror infrastructure in the West Bank," the statement said. "The IDF will continue to use any means at its disposal against terror organizations in order maintain the safety of the citizens of Israel." (Posted 2:40 a.m.)

Boat crash kills 5, hurts 1 on Texas-Oklahoma lake

(CNN) -- A high-speed collision of two jet boats killed five people and critically injured another on a lake on the Texas-Oklahoma border Saturday afternoon, an Oklahoma Highway Patrol spokeswoman said.

Investigators don't know why the two boats crashed into each other on the Oklahoma side of Lake Texoma, just west of Highway 377, said Oklahoma Trooper Kera Phillippi.

All four people in one of the boats died at the scene, while one of the two people in the second boat died later at Texoma Medical Center in Denison, Texas, Trooper Phillippi said. The lone survivor, a man, was flown by helicopter to Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, she said.

Lake Texoma is an 89,000 acre lake on the Red River is shared by Texas and Oklahoma. (Posted 9:49 p.m.)

Nellie Connally, widow of John Connally, is dead at 87

(CNN) -- Nellie Connally, the last survivor of the limousine that brought President John Kennedy through Dallas in November, 1963, died suddenly late Friday in Austin, Texas, at the age of 87. She was the widow for former Texas Gov. John Connally, who also served as Navy secretary in the Kennedy Administration and Treasury secretary for President Nixon.

Julian Read, a former aide to Gov. Connally, told CNN she was found in her apartment Saturday morning, slumped over her desk, having died while writing correspondence this night before. Read said she "apparently had a heart attack or a stroke, we're not sure which."

Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church in Austin. She will be buried next to her husband at the Texas State Cemetery. John Connally died in 1993.

Connally is best known for where she was on November 22, 1963. When the shots were fired at the open-air presidential limo, her husband was critically wounded as he sat next to her. In the seat behind them, Jacqueline Kennedy sat next to the fatally wounded President Kennedy. (Posted 8:25 p.m.)

Political polling pioneer Warren Mitofsky is dead at 72

WASHINGT0N (CNN) -- Warren Mitofsky, considered by many to be the "father of exit polling," died in New York on Friday at the age of 72. Mitofsky, who pioneered the use of exit polls in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, was also responsible for developing many of the techniques still used today in conducting the telephone polls that are a staple of modern-day journalism. (Posted 8:22 p.m.)

Hurricane John demoted to Tropical Storm

CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico (CNN) -- Hurricane John was downgraded to a Tropical Storm Saturday evening by the National Hurricane Center after its winds decreased to 70 mph.

The storm weakened Saturday, after dumping heavy rain on the southern Baja peninsula. No casualties were reported. (Posted 5:08 p.m.)

Iranian official says Iran will help with Israel-Hezbollah peace efforts

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki pledged to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Iran's full cooperation in implementing U.N. Resolution 1701, which generally stopped the fighting between Israel and the Hezbollah militia, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Saturday.

Annan, who met privately Saturday with Iranian leaders, said the resolution, passed by the Security Council on Aug. 14, was the main topic of discussions.

The U.N. head was to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, two days after the president flouted a U.N. deadline for suspending its enrichment of uranium, and reiterated Iran's determination to forge ahead with its nuclear program. Annan also met with Iranian Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Larijani.

Larijani said Annan's view "for the resolution of the nuclear problem of Iran is positive." (Posted 5:09 p.m.)

Al-Zawahiri, fugitive invite Americans to convert to Islam

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- In a videotape released Saturday, al Qaeda's second-in-command and a U.S. fugitive urge Americans and other Westerners to convert to Islam, according to CNN translators.

The voice on most of the tape, including the introduction, is that of Adam Gadahn, a Californian wanted by the FBI in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States. Gadahn, a Californian, is wanted by the FBI in connection with possible terrorist threats against the United States.

"We invite all Americans and believers to Islam, whatever their role and status in (U.S. President) Bush and (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair's world order," Gadahn says. "Decide today, because today could be your last day." (Posted 4:55 p.m.)

Report: Defense minister suggests some Canadian troops serve in Pakistan

(CNN) -- A Canadian newspaper reported Saturday that the country's defense minister believes some Canadian troops, now deployed in southern Afghanistan, should be transferred to the Pakistan side of the Afghan border.

The Globe and Mail quoted Defense Minister Gordon O'Connor, who was holding meetings with officials in Islamabad. "He urged his counterparts to step up their actions against the insurgents who emerge from hideouts in Pakistan to attack Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan," the newspaper reported Friday.

"Among other things, I suggested that some Pakistan officers be stationed with our troops in Kandahar and Canadian troops be stationed on the Pakistan side," O'Connor said in an interview with The Associated Press of Pakistan.

Pakistan has not permitted U.S. troops to operate in that country during the war on terror, but there have been reports of cross-border operations. More than 2,000 Canadian troops are serving under NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Afghanistan's Kandahar province borders Pakistan. (Posted 3:44 p.m.)

U.N. reports big hike in Afghan opium cultivation this year

(CNN) -- A U.N. agency on Saturday has reported a 59 percent rise in opium cultivation in Afghanistan this year, "largely due to a dramatic increase in the troubled southern provinces."

The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime described its annual opium survey for Afghanistan in a press released issued today. The survey "showed the area under opium cultivation reached a record 165,000 hectares in 2006 compared with 104,000 in 2005," the statement said.

The release notes that cultivation has spiked 162 percent to 69,324 hectares in Helmand province in the south. Taliban guerrillas have increased their attacks throughout the south in recent months.

Authorities in Afghanistan and the international community believe the militants finance their activities from the drug trade.

"Public opinion is increasingly frustrated by the fact that opium cultivation in Afghanistan is out of control. The political, military and economic investments by coalition countries are not having much visible impact on drug cultivation," said UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa. (Posted 2:35 p.m.)

14 British troops killed in Afghan plane crash

LONDON (CNN) -- The British Ministry of Defense confirmed Saturday that 14 British troops were killed in an air crash in Afghanistan, an incident that so far appears to stem from a technical problem rather than hostile action.

Britain is one of the countries in NATO's International Security Assistance Force in southern Afghanistan.

The ministry described the aircraft as a Nimrod MR2. The plane is a maritime patrol aircraft used primarily for surface surveillance, anti-submarine warfare, and search and rescue, according to globalsecurity.org. (Posted 1:44 p.m.)

Poll: U.S. support waning for Afghan war

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The once-widespread public support for U.S. military action in Afghanistan could be losing its traction, a CNN poll said Saturday.

The U.S. operation in Afghanistan that was launched a month after the al Qaeda terror network attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001 once had nearly unanimous backing from Americans.

Al Qaeda was harbored by the Taliban, the Islamist militant movement that ran the country.

A poll conducted in August shows that 56 percent of Americans approve of the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, and 41 percent disapprove. Most of the respondents, 58 percent, said neither side is winning.

Twenty-eight percent said the United States is winning, and 10 percent believe the insurgents are ahead.

Interviews with 1,047 adult Americans were conducted by telephone on Aug. 2-3 by the Opinion Research Corporation. (Posted 12:35 p.m.)

Atlantis astronauts return to space center to prepare -- again -- for launch

(CNN) -- The six Atlantis astronauts returned to Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday to prepare for a Wednesday launch, which had been postponed because of stormy weather.

The launch is now scheduled for Wednesday at 12:29 p.m. ET. Tropical Storm Ernesto's approach and a lightning strike on the launch pad last week had forced the delays.

Atlantis was set to lift off Aug. 27, but was delayed while engineers checked the spacecraft for possible damage from a lightning strike Aug. 25. Those problems had to be resolved before launch.

It will be the first shuttle mission since the crash of Columbia in 2003 to deliver a major new portion of the International Space Station.

"I think all of us thought we were going to be spending a little while in Houston," Commander Brent Jett, a Florida native, told reporters. "But I think we're all really happy that just four days later we're back here and we got a shot at this launch window." (Posted 11:29 a.m.)

Abu Ghraib, now officially under Iraqi control; detainee operations 'effectively ending' there

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces have formally transferred the controversial and now "empty" Abu Ghraib prison to Iraq, the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement.

The transfer was made on Saturday by the Multi-National Force-Iraq to the Iraqi Ministry of Justice, an act that "effectively" ends "detainee operations at the former coalition-run theater internment facility."

Abu Ghraib was been a site of prison abuse during the Saddam Hussein era. After Hussein was toppled, the U.S.-led forces took control of the facility. And during that period, U.S. prison guards mistreated inmates there.

MNF-I transferred most of the Abu Ghraib detainees to Camp Cropper in Baghdad last month. There was no news on how the building might be used.

Soldiers from the 1st Iraqi Army Division will provide security for the facility until the Iraqi Ministry of Justice dispatches its own security detail. (Posted 10:20 a.m.)

3 killed, 2 arrested in Gaza

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli soldiers in Gaza on Saturday killed three Palestinians and arrested two others, officials and sources told CNN. Israel Defense Forces said troops conducted an operation to arrest two Hamas militants in Beit Hanoun.

While they were on their way to carry out the operation, militants opened fire on Israeli troops and in an exchange of fire, two of the militants were hit, the IDF said. Palestinian medical sources said the two were killed. Israeli soldiers later arrested the two Hamas people they had been after. Hamas leaflets said two militants were arrested.

In another incident, the IDF recognized a man as he approached the Kisufim border crossing in central Gaza and killed him. (Posted 9:50 a.m.)

Afghan, NATO troops launch operation against Taliban in Kandahar province region

(CNN) -- Afghan and NATO troops on Saturday launched an operation in against "several known Taliban strongholds" in Kandahar province, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said.

It is being called Operation Medusa, and has been planned for more than a month. The operation, in the southern province's Panjwayi district, is "designed to drive Taliban fighters out and allow displaced residents to return to their homes and resume their lives."

ISAF says its aim is "to remove the Taliban threat from Panjwayi and stabilize the district so that much-needed reconstruction and development projects can resume." Troops planning the operation have consulted with tribal elders. (Posted 9:12 a.m.)

In Iraq, at least 14 S. Asian religious pilgrims killed; 12 more killed in other violence

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Insurgents near the Iraqi city of Ramadi shot and killed at least 14 pilgrims from India and Pakistan, one of several bloody attacks in Iraq over the last 24 hours that killed a dozen others.

Gunmen near the largely Sunni city halted a bus on a highway west of Ramadi that was headed to the holy Shiite city of Karbala. An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said the gunmen forced people to leave the bus and then they shot them.

Shiite pilgrims are expected in Karbala next week to celebrate the birthday of Muhammed al-Mahdi, the 12th historic imam revered by Shiites. The Oxford Dictionary of Islam explains that this imam "is expected to return at the end of time as the messianic imam who will restore justice and equity on earth."

Other violence ripped through Baghdad and two bordering provinces, Diyala and Babil, killing 12 others. (Posted 8:46 a.m.)

Iraq's prime minister meets with top ayatollah in southern Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani met on Saturday in the southern Shiite city of Najaf, the prime minister's office said.

The main reason of this visit was to foster support for the prime minister's national reconciliation plan, an official from the office said.

Al-Sistani -- a greatly influential Shiite cleric -- lives in Najaf. The two discussed the turbulent security situation, marked by Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, and the political process.

The official said that al-Maliki -- who is a Shiite -- held a press conference in Najaf after the meeting with al-Sistani. Al-Maliki also met with Najaf governor and the provisional council. (Posted 8:14 a.m.)

Scotland Yard: 14 men in custody for 'terror training'

LONDON (CNN) -- Fourteen men were jailed Saturday in London after police suspected them of training and recruiting for terror attacks, Scotland Yard said. Two others were arrested in Manchester in an unrelated terror investigation.

The 14 men were taken into custody after police launched anti-terrorism raids in south and east London following months of surveillance, a Scotland Yard statement said.

Police said some of the suspects may also be involved with setting up terror camps.

They are being held in a central London police station under Britain's Terrorism Act 2000.

Officials did not link the 14 arrests to earlier arrests of more than 20 people in connection with an alleged plot by a group of British Muslims to blow up U.S.-bound airliners using liquid explosive, the statement said.

North of London in Manchester, officers arrested two men under Britain's Terrorism Act 2000 and conducted searches at three residents in the Cheetham Hill area, Greater Manchester Police said.

The two arrests were made in connection with a police operation that took place Aug. 23 which led to the arrest of a man who is still in custody, police said. (Posted 7:07 a.m.)

Sri Lankan Navy: '80 Tamil Tigers killed in sea battle'

COLOMBO (CNN) -- The Sri Lankan Navy killed about 80 Tamil Tiger rebels in a nine-hour sea battle Friday night after Tamil Tigers attacked the navy's patrol crafts, the navy said.

The navy said the battle, which took place off the northern Jaffna peninsula, left three sailors wounded and two boats damaged. Five rebel ships were also sunk and seven more were damaged.

The use of sea routes has been a source of contention between the Tigers and the navy after rebels launched major attacks on the Jaffna peninsula Aug. 11.

After the fighting, military and commercial fights in and out of the main Sri Lankan air force base were suspended and the move has forced the military to rely heavily on the sea lanes.

--From CNN's Iqbal Athas in Sri Lanka (Posted 4:46 a.m.)

First contingent of Italian troops lands in Lebanon

TYRE, Lebanon (CNN) -- Around 100 Italian marines donning blue berets arrived on small motor boats and U.N. helicopters at the Lebanese port city of Tyre Saturday as part of a first wave of Italian troops expected over the weekend, video of the scene showed.

At least 800 Italian peacekeeping troops are eventually set to arrive in Tyre with the goal of supporting the U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon.

The U.N. multinational forces -- which include Italy -- will not be in the region to fight, but under their mandate will be responsible for defending themselves and any nearby civilians that are in danger, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Monday. (Posted 4:20 a.m.)

AirTran captain diverts flight due to 'unruly passenger'

DENVER, Colo. (CNN) -- The pilot of AirTran Airways flight 47, en route from Atlanta to San Francisco, made an emergency landing Saturday at Denver International Airport after a male passenger "was acting in a bizarre manner," Tad Hutcheson, vice president of AirTran Airways marketing and sales said.

During the flight, some of the 99 passengers on the Boeing 737 became "nervous" after a male passenger collected air sick bags throughout the plane and then walked to the front of the cabin, where he then paced back and forth in front of the bathrooms, Hutcheson said.

"He'd go in the lavatory and come out, and go in and come out and the flight attendant said please return to your seat," Hutcheson said. The passenger, however, did not listen to the crew's directions and the pilot was notified.

The captain then requested an emergency diversion to Denver, where he landed at 11 p.m. MT (1 p.m. ET).

The plane sat on an isolated tarmac while Denver International Airport Police boarded the plane, arrested the man and removed all his luggage, Hutcheson said. The man is being held in police custody.

All passengers on the plane remained on board and, after a new flight plan was mapped and the police searched the aircraft and gave the "all-clear," continued on to San Francisco.

Flight 47 is expected to arrive in San Francisco at 12:30 a.m PT (3:30 a.m. ET), approximately an hour and a half late, Hutcheson said. (Posted 2:46 a.m.)


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