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Monday, November 13

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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.

Israel launches airstrike in northern Gaza

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli military launched an airstrike overnight on what it called a "weaponry storage facility" in northern Gaza, an Israel Defense Forces statement said Tuesday.

Ahead of the aerial attack, an IDF spokesperson said civilians were ordered to evacuate, if they were staying " in structures that are used by terrorist organizations for storing weaponry."

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

Palestinian militant groups regularly launch rockets from northern Gaza into Israel. (Posted 2:50 a.m.)

Lott attempts comeback, seeks GOP whip post

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nearly four years after being forced to step down as Senate Republican leader after creating a firestorm with controversial remarks, Sen. Trent Lott is attempting a comeback by seeking the job of minority whip, the party's No. 2 position, in this week's leadership election.

"His name will be on the ballot. We are closing in on victory," Lott's spokeswoman Susan Irby said Monday.

A GOP senator who got a call from Lott last week told CNN that the Mississippi senator has been quietly rounding up votes for some time.

Lott -- who served as Senate majority whip before becoming majority leader in 1996 and was also House minority whip during the 1980s -- is competing for the job with Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. (Posted 11:25 p.m.)

San Francisco ends 2016 Olympic bid after stadium plans fall through

SAN FRANCISCO (CNN) -- Organizers of San Francisco's bid to host the 2016 Summer Olympics gave up on their quest Monday, saying they could no longer go forward after the 49ers NFL football franchise decided not to pursue construction of a new stadium in the city.

The decision leaves Chicago and Los Angeles remaining as the two possible U.S. candidates for the 2016 games.

Scott Givens, managing director of the San Francisco 2016 Bid Committee, said that since the announcement by the 49ers, "the question we have had to answer is, with the damage done to our perceived and real ability to deliver venue certainty, is it still possible to win the (U.S. Olympic Committee's) confidence?"

"After thoroughly examining all of our options for an Olympic stadium venue, the answer, sadly, is no," Givens said in a statement. (Posted 11:20 p.m.)

Giuliani forms presidential exploratory committee

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who won international acclaim for leading his city through the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, has taken the first step toward a possible 2008 White House bid by forming a presidential exploratory committee.

Giuliani filed paperwork last week with the New York Department of State to create the committee as a not-for-profit corporation, becoming the second Republican to take a formal step into the 2008 race. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California announced last month that he also planned to run.

In a CNN poll taken among registered Republican voters in late October to gauge the popularity of potential 2008 candidates, Giuliani led the GOP field with 29 percent, slightly ahead of Sen. John McCain of Arizona at 27 percent. And in another survey conducted last week for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation, Giuliani was viewed favorably by 60 percent of those surveyed, while just 18 percent had an unfavorable view.

However, the former mayor's moderate views on social issues, including abortion and gay rights, are likely to draw fire from religious conservatives, who will play an influential role in the 2008 nominating process. (Posted 6:34 p.m.)

Giuliani forms presidential exploratory committee

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has taken the first step toward a possible 2008 White House bid by forming a presidential exploratory committee. (Posted 5:38 p.m.)

Blair calls for 'whole Middle East strategy' to resolve Iraq war

LONDON (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday called on Iran and Syria to help end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the war in Iraq, which he said are fueling global terrorism, offering a choice between a "new partnership" and international isolation.

Blair said the same Islamic extremists who are driving the sectarian violence in Iraq are also spreading violence worldwide, and his "whole Middle East strategy" is aimed at resolving the conflicts that fuel their ideology.

"A major part of the answer to Iraq lies not in Iraq itself but outside it -- in the whole of the region where the same forces are at work; where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found; where the extremism flourishes, with a propaganda that may be, indeed is, totally false, but is nonetheless attractive to much of the Arab street," he said.

Blair said any suggestion that he was changing policy toward Iran and Syria would be "a fundamental misunderstanding," and he repeated that Iran must comply with international demands that it halt its development of nuclear technology.

He said Iran is resisting international pressure over its nuclear program by inflaming what he called "the pressure points in the region" -- Israel's conflicts with the Palestinians and Lebanon, where the Syrian- and Iranian-backed Shiite militia Hezbollah triggered a month-long war with Israel over the summer.(Posted 6:20 p.m.)

U.S. citizen facing execution in Iraq loses high court appeal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court denied an appeal Monday on behalf of a U.S. citizen facing execution in Iraq following his conviction in an alleged kidnapping plot.

The high court refused to get involved for now in the ongoing legal battle to prevent Mohammad Munaf's pending transfer from U.S. military custody to Iraqi authorities.

His lawyers say the case goes to the heart of a U.S. citizen's right to challenge his detention by the international military coalition led by the United States, and his ability to seek legal relief in federal courts.

The appeal for "temporary injunctive relief" went first to Chief Justice John Roberts. He referred it to the other eight members of the court, who turned down the appeal without comment. The appeal is also working its way through lower federal courts and may again reach the high court in coming days. --From CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears (Posted 4:47 p.m.)

Feds settle lawsuit alleging HIV-related discrimination by Philadelphia

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Justice Department announced Monday that it has settled a lawsuit filed by a man against the city of Philadelphia for refusing to give him appropriate medical care after learning he was infected with the AIDS virus.

John Gill Smith filed the suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act in 2001 alleging that emergency medical technicians responding to a call that he was suffering from chest pains refused to treat him properly after learning he had AIDS.

Smith's attorneys said the EMTs failed to take Smith's vital signs, perform an EKG or touch him, and refused to help him get into or out of the ambulance, said Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the AIDS Law Project in Philadelphia and one of Smith's attorneys.

Smith turned out to have been suffering a panic attack provoked by pain from a pulled chest muscle, Goldfein said in a telephone interview. But that doesn't absolve the city for the actions of its EMTs, she said. "You don't get a pass for bad behavior just because he didn't die."

Two years ago, the Justice Department joined in the lawsuit as a plaintiff. (Posted 4:03 p.m.)

Martinez to replace Mehlman as GOP chairman, sources say

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Florida Sen. Mel Martinez has agreed to take over the leadership of the Republican National Committee after the party's current chairman, Ken Mehlman, steps down, Republican sources said Monday.

Martinez, who served as housing secretary in Bush's first term, was elected to the Senate in 2004. He will retain that seat while also serving as the party's lead spokesman and playing a major role in fund-raising. Another party veteran will run RNC's operations on a day-to-day basis, three GOP sources told CNN.

GOP sources said Thursday that Mehlman would not seek a new term as chairman and would let the party pick a new leader at its January meeting. Those sources said Mehlman had made clear to close associates for some time he was likely to leave after last week's elections, and that there was no dissatisfaction with his performance in the congressional vote -- which saw the GOP lose control of both houses of Congress. --From CNN Chief National Correspondent John King (Posted 2:57 p.m.)

One of Bagram escapees captured by US forces in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- U.S. military sources now say that a senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan who escaped last year from Bagram prison has been captured.

Abu Nasir al-Qahtani was among six people arrested last Monday during a raid by coalition and Afghan forces in Khost province, the sources said. At the time, a coalition military press release described him only as a "known al Qaeda terrorist" and said that he was taken into custody along with Saudi and Pakistani nationals.

A coalition spokesman Monday night in Kabul would not confirm al-Qahtani's arrest. He said only that during the operation last week, grenades, military equipment, armor-piercing rounds and AK-47 assault rifles were found, as well as a camera containing surveillance video of nearby military installations

Al-Qahtani was one of four al Qaeda detainees who escaped from the high-security detention facility at the U.S. base in Bagram in July 2005. --By CNN's Henry Schuster in London (Posted 2:38 p.m.)

Bush says he's looking forward to Baker commission's Iraq report

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Monday he is "looking forward to interesting ideas" from an independent commission reviewing the U.S. war in Iraq, but repeated his insistence that any withdrawal of American troops must depend on conditions there.

Bush spent more than an hour with members of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel led by James Baker, a former secretary of state, and Lee Hamilton, a former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The panel is expected to deliver recommendations for the future of the war sometime soon.

Bush said he had "a really good discussion" with the panel, and did not know what it would conclude. But he said the U.S. goal in Iraq remains "success -- a government which can sustain, govern and defend itself and will serve as an ally in this war on terror."

His remarks followed a renewed call by Sen. Carl Levin -- who is expected to become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee following the Democratic takeover of Congress -- for a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops as a way of spurring Iraqis to take political steps to end the ongoing war. (Posted 2:05 p.m.)

More bullet-riddled bodies found in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A police officer, three street vendors and a carpenter were among 46 people whose bullet-riddled bodies were found Monday in Iraq's capital, police said.

The discovery of the bodies -- many of which could not immediately be identified because of the extent of their wounds -- came in several neighborhoods in the city, and capped a day of increased violence, police said. (Posted 12:55 p.m.)

Body of kidnapped Turk identified

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The body of a businessman from Turkey kidnapped in Iraq in July has been identified, a Turkish Embassy spokesman said Monday.

Yildirim Tek, a private contractor working on projects in Iraq, was kidnapped by gunmen on July 23, the spokesman said.

Turkish officials received word last week that Tek's family had identified him from pictures of bodies found along the road leading to Baghdad's airport about six weeks ago, the spokesman told CNN. (Posted 12:18 p.m.)

U.S. soldiers killed by car bomb

TIKRIT, Iraq (CNN) -- Two U.S. soldiers were killed Sunday when a suicide car bomb detonated near their vehicle as they were patrolling in Salaheddin province, the U.S. military said.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the blast and were transported to a coalition forces medical treatment facility, the military said.

The dead and injured were all members of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. Names are being withheld pending notification of relatives.

With the deaths, 2,849 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war. Thirty-one military personnel have died in November, bringing total U.S. military deaths in Iraq during 2006 to 669. (Posted 10:09 a.m.)

Top U.S. military commander in Baghdad to 'reaffirm' commitment to success in Iraq

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Gen. John Abizaid, head of the U.S. Central Command, made a surprise visit Monday to Baghdad to meet with Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and "reaffirm President Bush's commitment" to success in Iraq, the Iraqi government said.

Abizaid also told al-Maliki that the U.S. remains "keen" on helping rehabilitate Iraq's armed forces to take over security throughout the country, the Iraqi government said.

Abizaid and al-Maliki also discussed the effect of the neighboring countries on the security situation in Iraq, the iraqi government said.

A U.S. military spokesman confirmed the trip, but did not have specific details regarding his trip.

Abizaid is the third top U.S. official to visit Iraq since Oct. 30, when National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley made an unannounced visit. National Intelligence Director John Negroponte met with Iraqi officials on Nov. 3. -- CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report. (Posted 9:05 a.m.)

Remaining Lebanese cabinet ministers approve Hariri tribunal

BEIRUT (CNN) -- What remains of Lebanon's cabinet approved an international tribunal Monday to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. But amid escalating political turmoil, it was unclear whether the cabinet's approval carried any weight.

In the last 48 hours, six pro-Syrian cabinet members resigned -- five members of the Islamic militant group Hezbollah and one Christian. Since the Lebanese constitution demands that all sects be represented, the cabinet without these members may not represent a full governmental decision.

Still, the remaining 18 members agreed to the tribunal -- enough for a two-thirds majority that the constitution says is necessary for the government to act.

The anti-Syrian legislators -- who supported the push to eject Syrian troops and intelligence forces last year -- are accusing the pro-Syrian elements of a deliberate effort to thwart an investigation to Hariri's death. (Posted 8:25 a.m.)

Educator says he would accept job as technocrat leading new Palestinian government if he is asked

GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) -- Dr. Mohammed Shabir, a Palestinian educator, told CNN Monday if he is offered the job as the technocrat head of a new Palestinian government, he will accept it.

Shabir, 60, former president of the Islamic University in Gaza, is the apparent choice of both Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and the Hamas party which has the majority in the Palestinian legislature.

Shabir, contacted Monday, said he had not been officially offered the job but would accept the post if Abbas calls.

The Palestinians are trying to come up with a government acceptable to Western powers so that the Palestinian Authority can once again get Western aid.

Both the United States and the European Union cut off funds to the PA after the surprise election win in January that gave Hamas, which is opposed to the existence of Israel, control of the Palestinian government.

As a result, the PA has been unable to pay its government workers and security staffs. The ripple effect is that the economy in the Palestinian territories has collapsed.

Shabir has said he is an independent, not a member of Fatah or Hamas. --From CNN Correspondent Ben Wedeman (Posted 7:51 a.m.)

Suicide bomber kills 10 people on bus

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide bomber wearing an explosives belt blew himself up inside a bus in northeastern Baghdad Monday, killing 10 people and wounding 17, Baghdad emergency police said.

The attack took place around noon (4 a.m. ET) in the Shaab neighborhood. (Posted 5:05 a.m.)

South African train accident kills at least 27

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- At least 27 agricultural workers died early Monday when a train slammed into a farm truck at a rail crossing east of Cape Town, a paramedics spokesman said. Seven others received serious to critical injuries in the accident.

According to Michael Ludick, the Western Cape-area manager for Netcare 911 paramedics, the train hit the farm truck around 7:30 a.m. in Elsiesrivier.

He said all of the casualties involved laborers riding in the back of the truck. There were no injuries aboard the train. (Posted 4:30 a.m.)

Sixth cabinet minister resigns in Lebanon

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanese Environment Minister Yaacoub Sarraf resigned on Monday, making him the sixth member of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's cabinet to quit, according to a representative with the Presidential Palace.

Sarraf is a Greek Orthodox Christian, while the other five ministers who resigned were Shiites. (Posted 3:30 a.m.)

Car bomb explodes in parking garage, wounds 1

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb exploded in a central Baghdad parking garage Monday, wounding one person and damaging 13 cars, an official with Baghdad emergency police said.

The attack -- near the Iranian embassy and the Green Zone -- took place around 8 a.m. (12 a.m. ET). (Posted 3:30 a.m.)

Bird flu kills 2 year old

JAKARTA (CNN) -- A 2-year-old Indonesian boy became the country's 56th fatality from bird flu, dying Monday morning, an official with the Bird Flu Information Center said.

According to the official, the boy was admitted to the hospital on Sunday and had been in contact with fowl. (Posted 1:50 a.m.)

Calif. man arrested in white powder probe

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Federal agents have arrested a California man suspected of sending threatening letters containing white powder to celebrities and politicians, including talk-show host David Letterman and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, the FBI announced Sunday.

Chad Conrad Castagana, 39, of Woodland Hills, Calif., is expected to make an initial appearance before a federal magistrate on Monday, the bureau said. Investigators said he mailed a series of letters that contained threats and a white powder, determined to have been harmless, to numerous high-profile figures.

A suspicious white powder also turned up at the New York office of former President Bill Clinton in late October, the Secret Service said. Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles, said she had no indication that Castagana was behind that incident -- but she added, "It's under investigation what additional letters may have been sent." (Posted 10 p.m.)


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