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Wednesday, January 10

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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.

Russia resumes oil flow to Europe

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia resumed oil shipments through a main pipeline to Europe Thursday morning after settling a dispute a day earlier with Belarus, said Sergei Grigoriev, the vice president of Russia's Transnett, the operator of the pipeline.

On Monday, Russian shipments via the pipeline that runs across Belarus were halted in a dispute in which Russia accused Belarus of siphoning off oil and had Minsk fuming at Moscow about an expensive new Russian tariff on natural resources. (Posted 2:58 a.m.)

NATO, Afghan forces kill up to 150 insurgents

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- NATO's International Security Assistance Force, along with Afghan National Army troops killed as many as 150 insurgents in eastern Paktika province Wednesday night, a NATO statement released Thursday said. (Posted 2:45 a.m.)

Bush calls for troop boost to turn around 'unacceptable' situation in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Trying to sell a new Iraq strategy to a war-weary public and a skeptical Congress, President Bush said Wednesday night that he plans to send more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to help Iraqi security forces quell sectarian violence in Baghdad and hunt down al Qaeda terrorists in Anbar province.

"The situation in Iraq is unacceptable to the American people, and it is unacceptable to me," Bush said in a televised address outlining what he characterized as a change of course.

Bush said he had considered -- and rejected -- proposals to scale back U.S. operations in Baghdad or undertake a phased withdrawal of American combat forces from Iraq. "To step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale," the president said. "Such a scenario would result in our troops being forced to stay in Iraq even longer and confront an enemy that is even more lethal."

However, Bush also said he has made it clear to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other Iraqi leaders "that America's commitment is not open-ended." (Posted 10:30 p.m.)

Dems: Iraqis need to understand that American troops will come home

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush isn't sending enough troops to end the sectarian violence in Iraq, and is sending too many to risk their lives, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Wednesday after the president's speech announcing the deployment of more than 20,000 additional troops into battle in Iraq.

Durbin, delivering the Democratic response to Bush's speech, called for "the orderly" withdrawal of troops from Iraq to send the Iraqis the message that the United States will not perpetually back them militarily.

"When they understand that our troops indeed are coming home, then will they understand that the day has come to face their own responsibility to protect and defend their nation," Durbin, the Senate's Majority Whip, said in prepared remarks. "Every time they call 9-1-1, we are not going to send 20,000 more American soldiers." (Posted 9:55 p.m.)

Lines drawn in the sand between supporters, opponents of Bush's plan to boost troop strength in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As some Republicans joined Democrats in opposition to President Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq, one former Democrat -- who won re-election last year as an independent -- joined other Republicans to praise the plan and urge unity behind it.

In a statement, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., applauded Bush "for rejecting the fatalism of failure and pursuing a new course to achieve success in Iraq." (Posted 9:01 p.m.)

Bush: Bipartisan group to be formed on war on terror

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A bipartisan working group will be formed to "help us come together across party lines to win the war on terror," President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

Bush said the working group was being formed "on the good advice of Sen. Joe Lieberman and other key members of Congress." It will meet regularly with the president and members of his administration, he said, and "will help strengthen our relationship with Congress.

"We can begin by working together to increase the size of the active Army and Marine Corps, so that America has the armed forces we need for the 21st century," Bush said. (Posted 8:53 p.m.)

Bush: Casualties will continue, even if new strategy works

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even if his new strategy for Iraq works, acts of violence and Iraqi and American casualties will continue, President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. (Posted 8:52 p.m.)

Bush: Additional troops include 4,000 to Anbar

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As part of the more than 20,000 additional troops committed to Iraq, 4,000 will be headed to the nation's volatile Anbar province, President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. (Posted 8:51 p.m.)

Bush: Rice will soon appoint reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in Baghdad "to ensure better results for economic assistance being spent in Iraq," President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. (Posted 8:51 p.m.)

Bush: American advisers to Iraqi Army increasing

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday he plans to increase the embedding of American advisers in Iraqi Army units and will partner a Coalition brigade with every Iraqi Army division as part of his new plan for Iraq.

In addition, "we will accelerate the training of Iraq forces, which remains the essential U.S. security mission in Iraq," Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. (Posted 8:49 p.m.)

Bush: Iraqi government to be responsible for province security by November

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Iraqi government plans to assume responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November, President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

In addition, the Iraqi government will spent $10 billion "of its own money" on reconstruction and infrastructure projects to create new jobs, Bush said. It plans to hold provincial elections later this year, and will reform de-Baathification laws and "establish a fair process for considering amendments to Iraq's constitution." (Posted 8:49 p.m.)

Bush: More than 20,000 additional American troops committed to Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's new plan for Iraq includes the deployment of more than 20,000 additional American troops, the president said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday.

The vast majority of those troops, Bush said, will be deployed to Baghdad to assist Iraqi troops as they clear and secure neighborhoods.

"This time," Bush said, "we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared." (Posted 8:49 p.m.

Bush: Iraqis have plan to end sectarian violence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Only the Iraqis can end sectarian violence in their country, President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesdaytion, "and their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it."

The Iraqi government will deploy Iraqi Army and National Police brigades across Baghdad's nine districts, Bush said. "When these forces are fully deployed, there will be 18 Iraqi Army and National Police brigades committed to this effort -- along with local police." (Posted 8:48 p.m.)

Bush: Casualties will continue, even if new strategy works

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Even if his new strategy for Iraq works, acts of violence and Iraqi and American casualties will continue, President Bush said in remarks prepared for delivery Wednesday. (Posted 8:47 p.m.)

Indonesian military: Fisherman finds part of downed passenger liner

JAKARTA (CNN) -- A piece of a missing Indonesian airliner, assumed to have crashed Jan. 1 with 102 people aboard, was found in the Java Sea by a fisherman, an Indonesian military official said Thursday.

The discovery was made about 3 a.m., First Adm. Edy Suyanto, head of the Indonesian military base at Makassar, told CNN, and authorities were able to confirm it was part of the Adam Air flight. The part was found in the water about 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of Parepare, north of Makassar in Sulawesi province, and about 300 meters (984 feet) from the beach, Suyanto said.

Although the part was found in the water, Suyanto said, authorities still do not know whether the airliner crashed into the Java Sea or in the mountainous terrain of western Sulawesi province. No bodies were recovered. (Posted 8:03 p.m.)

Democrats' Medicare drug bill won't save much, CBO says

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Democratic plan to revamp the Medicare prescription drug benefit by letting the government negotiate with pharmaceutical companies would have little effect on the program's cost, a congressional estimate found Wednesday.

The proposal is one of the top six bills that Democratic leaders in the House plan to pass within their first 100 hours of legislative time, but the Congressional Budget Office estimates it would have "a negligible effect on federal spending."

The fourth of the Democrats' six bills, scheduled for debate Friday, would require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors in the plan. There was no immediate reaction from Democratic leaders to Wednesday's CBO assessment. (Posted 7:36 p.m.)

McCain: President's troop increase plan 'meets our criteria'

From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who had advocated sending as many as 35,000 troops to Iraq in order to make a so-called "surge" successful, said Wednesday he is satisfied with President Bush's decision to send in just over 21,000.

"I think so," McCain said when asked if it was enough. "Because of the number of brigades."

Last week McCain, a key supporter of increasing the number of troops in Iraq, said his primary concern was that President Bush wouldn't send in enough troops. (Posted 7:03 p.m.)

Pentagon says new troops will not move until after Bush speech

From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pentagon officials said that the deployments to be ordered President Bush Wednesday have not yet begun, and that the additional troops won't start to move until after the president's speech.

A Pentagon official told CNN a "package" of deployment orders has been sent to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who will sign them after the speech.

The first troops to move to Iraq are expected to be from 82nd Airborne Division, which is already in Kuwait and poised to move to Baghdad.

Pentagon officials said those troops have not yet left Kuwait. (Posted 6:51 p.m.)

Cisco sues Apple over 'iPhone' name

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Cisco Systems is suing Apple Inc. for trademark infringement over naming the new iPod-phone Apple launched Tuesday, Cisco announced in a press release Wednesday.

Cisco has held the trademark on 'iPhone' since 2000.

The two companies had been in negotiation over use of the name, Cisco said Tuesday, after Apple Chairman Steve Jobs announced the new phone. At that time, a Cisco spokeswoman said the company assumed that Apple's use of the name meant it had agreed to the latest terms in the talks. --From CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 6:08 p.m.)

Bush to say new Iraq strategy 'will bring us closer to success'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will try to convince the American people Wednesday night that the best way to "hasten the day" U.S. troops come home from Iraq is to "increase our support at this crucial moment" -- but he will also warn Iraqi leaders that America's commitment is "not open-ended," according to speech excerpts released by the White House.

Bush's televised address outlining a new strategy for Iraq will begin at 9 p.m. He is expected to call for the deployment of at least 21,000 additional U.S. troops in an effort to quell violence in Iraq.

According to the excerpts, the president will tell the American people that the changes he's outlining in the speech "are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security."

"The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success," Bush will say, according to the excerpts. "I believe that it will." (Posted 5:55 p.m.)

Democrats not backing down from criticism of Bush plan

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush prepared to announce an increase in troops for Iraq Wednesday night, congressional Democrats intensified their criticism of the plan.

Emerging from a White House meeting on Iraq with the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained they were never consulted on the much-anticipated plan, which will send more than 20,000 additional troops into Iraq.

"There's difference between consultation and notification," Pelosi said. "This was a notification."

In addition, Reid said, the briefing didn't help him understand how the new policy will be successful. --From CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 5:25 p.m.)

House passes minimum wage increase

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to raise the federal minimum wage by $2.10 per hour, the second of six bills the Democratic majority has vowed to pass in its first 100 hours of work.

The minimum wage, currently $5.15 per hour, was last raised in 1997. Increasing it was one of the major campaign promises by the Democrats, who took control of Congress in November's elections.

"For 10 years we struggled to have this vote, and now we're finally going to have it," Rep. George Miller, the new chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, said to cheers from his fellow Democrats as final passage neared.

The vote was 315-116, as many Republicans also voted in favor. The measure must now go to the Senate for its consideration. (Posted 5:16 p.m.)

Disputes continue days before criminal trial of ex-Cheney aide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A federal judge is prepared to hold opening arguments Jan. 22 in the criminal trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney.

But before the opening, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton told prosecutors and defense counsel Wednesday that they must resolve the extent of grand jury testimony that will be allowed into evidence, and further refine the questions he will ask of potential jury members in a selection process that begins Tuesday.

"I won't be telling them the facts of the case," Walton said at a pretrial hearing, "just the roles of the prosecutor, the defense and myself, and the bare elements of the offense." --From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 4:32 p.m.)

Data-mining legislation introduced as experts testify on privacy threat

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Senate bill was introduced Wednesday requiring close scrutiny of government data-mining activities, even as expert witnesses testified that lawmakers are unable to keep up with changing technology that threatens citizen privacy.

To dramatize concern that counterterrorism efforts have eroded personal privacy, the Senate Judiciary Committee highlighted the issue in its opening session under Democratic control.

Panel Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he backs the proposal, which requires government agencies to report regularly to Congress on the activities of about 200 data-mining programs.

Government agencies use high-speed technologies to analyze -- or "mine" -- information collected and placed in data bases to help spot potential terrorist activity. --From Justice Producer Terry Frieden (Posted 4:11 p.m.)

4 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq combat

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three soldiers in Iraq were killed Tuesday in the U.S. military's grinding fight against insurgents in two major hot spots outside the capital -- Anbar and Diyala provinces, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

A soldier assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and another assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division "died Tuesday from wounds sustained due to enemy action" in Anbar -- the sprawling Sunni-dominated province west of Baghdad.

A third soldier assigned to the 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary) died outside of Falluja when an IED exploded, the military said. Falluja is also in Anbar province.

The fourth death -- of a Task Force Lightning soldier who was assigned to the Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division -- occurred in Diyala province, the violent, ethnically mixed entity north and east of Baghdad. (Posted 3:52 p.m.)

Pentagon officials says troops 'surge' will not break goal of giving 'year off'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The deployment of more than 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, including five Army Brigades, will be accomplished without breaking a promise to soldiers to give them at least one year back home between deployments, Pentagon officials told CNN Wednesday.

However, the president's plan will require one National Guard brigade, scheduled to return to the United States in March, to remain in Baghdad four extra months, until mid-summer.

Sources identified that brigade as the 1st of the 34th Division of the Minnesota National Guard.

The rest of the increase will be accomplished by what Pentagon officials described as a "modest acceleration" of previously scheduled deployments of Army brigades, which are made up of roughly 3,500 soldiers. --From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre (Posted 3:48 p.m.)

2nd U.S. airstrike in Somalia aborted after targets lost

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States sent an AC-130 on a second mission to attack suspected al Qaeda members in southern Somalia Tuesday, but the airstrike was called off when the gunship lost track of the targets, a Pentagon official said Wednesday.

The official also told CNN that eight suspected terrorists were killed in the first AC-130 strike overnight Sunday, but that the identities of the dead have not been confirmed. Somali officials have said they were told by U.S. officials that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed -- a suspect in the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania -- was killed in the strike. But a second U.S. official said the U.S. government has no confirmation that is the case.

U.S. intelligence reports say several suspects managed to get away after the attack, but some were believed to have been badly wounded.

In addition, the U.S. believes none of the dead were innocent civilians, the official said. --From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and producer Mike Mount (Posted 3:27 p.m.)

Montana Democrat changes stance, regrets voting for Iraq war in 2002

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, who lost a 28-year-old nephew in Iraq, called his 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war "a mistake" Wednesday, and said U.S. troops should begin returning home in six months.

The nephew, a Marine, died in July.

The senator from Montana announced his stance on the Senate floor just hours before President Bush is to unveil his new military strategy for Iraq. Most congressional Democrats spoke against the war long ago.

Baucus said the administration should drop its military efforts and attempt a political solution that involves the region.

"It is time for our combat troops to come home from Iraq," he said. "America entered into this war with motivations that were honorable. But they were mistaken." (Posted 3:16 p.m.)

A day after Haifa Street firefight, relative calm

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A day after an intense 10-hour firefight along Baghdad's volatile Haifa Street, a relative calm prevailed along the notorious stretch.

But two minor clashes and the detention of two more people Wednesday provided a reality check for U.S. and Iraqi troops up and down the street, a stronghold of the Sunni insurgency.

The U.S. military thinks some of the insurgents don't plan to give up their fight and are probably regrouping. Fierce fighting could erupt again anytime, the military said.

At least 50 insurgents were killed in Tuesday's battle, which began before dawn and ended about 4 p.m., an Iraqi defense ministry spokesman said. --From CNN's Arwa Damon (Posted 3:07 p.m.)

Minimum wage increase next up in Democrats' 100-hour package

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- House Democrats pushed a $2.10-per-hour increase in the federal minimum wage to the chamber's floor Wednesday, the second of six bills they have promised to pass in their first days in charge of Congress.

The minimum wage, now $5.15 an hour, was last raised in 1997.

"This is the longest period in history in law without a wage increase," said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif. "During that time, the minimum wage has dropped to its lowest buying power in 51 years."

A vote on the bill was slated for Wednesday afternoon. It is the second of six that Democrats have vowed to pass in their first 100 hours of lawmaking. (Posted 2:37 p.m.)

Yvonne De Carlo -- TV's Mrs. Munster -- dead at 84

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- Yvonne De Carlo, who appeared in such disparate roles as temptress and monster's wife in a movie and television career that spanned more than 35 years, has died at the age of 84, her son told CNN Wednesday.

Bruce R. Morgan said his mother died in his arms Tuesday evening at the Motion Picture Home in Woodland Hills, Calif., apparently of a massive stroke and heart failure.

De Carlo's work included Hollywood studio features, European and British features, and the role of Lily Munster on the 1960s television series "The Munsters." (Posted 2:32 p.m.)

Bush reported to be upset after viewing unauthorized video of Hussein's execution

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush was upset after viewing the unauthorized video of Saddam Hussein's execution and compared his feelings to the emotions he felt after seeing the photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, White House officials said Wednesday.

Dark, grainy video apparently recorded on a cell phone of Hussein's Dec. 30 hanging was leaked to the media soon after the execution. (Posted 1:21 p.m.)

Source: Bush hopes to send another Army brigade to Iraq within weeks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush wants to send 21,000 to 24,000 additional U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province over the next few months, and the first of five U.S. Army brigades could leave within weeks, senior White House officials said Wednesday.

Bush plans a 20-minute nationally televised address at 9 p.m. ET Wednesday to outline his plan to boost troop strength in Iraq.

In a White House briefing, the officials said the president will propose sending five more Army brigades of 3,000-4,000 soldiers each to Baghdad, spread among nine districts. In addition, 4,000 Marines would go to the troubled Anbar province west of Baghdad to fight al Qaeda. (Posted 1:20 p.m.)

Sunni Muslim group condemns proposed new strategy to secure Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An influential group of Sunni Muslim scholars in Iraq is condemning the new strategy the Bush administration is set to propose to send more troops to Iraq.

"The inability of 140,000 soldiers to achieve their goals in battle makes it unlikely that another 20,000 will be able to do that," according to the Association of Muslim Scholars. "The fate of the additional troops will be no better than those already on Iraqi soil. Many of them will die and many, many more innocent Iraqis will die in the process."

The group said Bush is sending more troops to Iraq "despite the conclusion of his military leadership that there is no military solution to the situation in Iraq." (Posted 12:52 p.m.)

1 dead, 3 injured in British helicopter collision

LONDON (CNN) -- One person was killed and three were injured Wednesday in a mid-air collision of Royal Air Force helicopters, the British Ministry of Defense said.

The incident involved two Squirrel helicopters from the base at RAF Tern Hill in England, called by the MOD "a reserve landing ground for the Defense Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury."

There were two people on board both Squirrels, described as "a two-seat basic flying-trainer helicopter" that is used for training pilots.

One of the three hurt is "seriously injured," the MOD said. (Posted 12:23 p.m.)

60 bodies found in, around Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Sixty slain bodies were found on Wednesday in and around Baghdad, authorities told CNN.

Forty-one bodies were found Tuesday throughout the Iraqi capital.

The discovery of dead bodies has been a daily occurrence in Baghdad. The deaths are thought to be the result of sectarian violence. (Posted 12:03 p.m.)

10 Iraqi Shiites returning from hajj killed in ambush

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Ten Iraqi Shiites returning from the hajj in Saudi Arabia were shot and killed in an ambush Wednesday, an Interior Ministry official in Baghdad said.

Fifteen others were wounded, according to the official, who said the pilgrims were traveling in three vehicles.

Karbala police said the incident took place near the Iraq-Saudi border in Anbar province. Police said a caravan of pilgrims was ambushed near the town of Nukhaib, about 200 kilometers north of the Aarar border crossing in the sprawling province.

UNICEF reports one of its employees killed in Baghdad

They were taken to the main hospital in Karbala city, located in Anbar's neighboring Karbala province, police said. (Posted noon)

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A UNICEF staffer in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad has been killed, the agency said.

He is Janan Jabero, the U.N. children's agency said in a news release dated Tuesday.

Jabero "was a brilliant engineer and had been a key part of UNICEF's school rehabilitation program in Iraq since 1999," UNICEF said.

The agency said "initial reports from local authorities indicate that Mr. Jabero, a 52-year-old Iraqi national, was shot while driving his car in Baghdad. He is survived by his wife and two children." (Posted 10:23 a.m.)

Russia, Belarus apparently settle pipeline spat, but flow not resumed

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Russia and Belarus apparently settled a dispute Wednesday that interrupted oil pipeline shipments to Europe, but a Russian official said the oil has not yet begun flowing again.

On Monday, Russian shipments via a pipeline that runs across Belarus were halted in a dispute in which Russia accused Belarus of siphoning off oil and Minsk fumed at Moscow about a new Russian tariff on natural resources.

The dispute left officials in Poland and Germany uncertain about the reliability of Russia as a supplier of energy to the European Union.

The dispute was apparently settled after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko talked Wednesday by telephone. (Posted 9:49 a.m.)

3 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq combat -- 2 in Anbar, 1 in Diyala

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Three soldiers in Iraq were killed Tuesday in the U.S. military's grinding fight against insurgents in two major hot spots outside the capital -- two dying in Anbar province and another in Diyala province, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

A soldier assigned to 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group and another assigned to 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division "died Tuesday from wounds sustained due to enemy action" in Anbar -- the sprawling Sunni-dominated province west of Baghdad.

The third -- a Task Force Lightning soldier who was assigned to the Army's 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division -- was killed in Diyala province, the violent, ethnically mixed entity north and east of Baghdad.

With the deaths, the U.S. military has suffered 3,017 fatalities in Iraq since the war started nearly four years ago. The total for January is 13. (Posted 9:43 a.m.)

Bush counselor: Iraq must assume more security responsibilities

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's proposed new strategy in the Iraq war -- which he will describe to the nation Wednesday night -- would rely on the Iraq government to step up to the plate and take more responsibility for the country's security, the man who serves as Bush's counselor said Wednesday.

"Bush will make very clear tonight that the sectarian violence we're seeing in Iraq can only be solved by Iraqis, and the plan put forward tonight is an Iraqi initiative. What it requires, though, is our support," Dan Bartlett, who oversees planning and media affairs in the White House, told CNN's "American Morning."

Bush wants to send about 20,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq in an effort to pacify the Iraqi capital, with the goal of handing control of the country to Iraqi troops by November, a U.S. official said Tuesday. Most of the troops would be sent to Baghdad and the restive Anbar province to the west. (Posted 9:40 a.m.)

Talabani: Let's take a deep breath before carrying out Bandar, Hassan executions

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi President Jalal Talabani -- working to ease the brutal sectarian divide between Iraq's Sunni Arabs and Shiites -- thinks the upcoming executions of two Saddam Hussein-era officials should be delayed.

He alluded to the tension-filled sectarian climate, exacerbated by last month's hanging of the former dictator. Barzan Hassan and Awad Bandar were sentenced to death in the Dujail case along with Saddam Hussein.

"My opinion is that we slow down a bit and take into account the current conditions in the country," said Talabani.

On Tuesday, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that the executions were expected to be carried out in a "matter of days." (Posted 9:35 a.m.)

Somalian officials: U.S. airstrike kills suspected al Qaeda militant in southern Somalia

KISMAYO, Somalia (CNN) -- A U.S.-led airstrike in southern Somalia killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the suspected al Qaeda member and orchestrator of the grim 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in east Africa, Somali officials said Wednesday.

However, U.S. officials would not confirm Mohammed had been killed.

According to Somalian military commander Col. Abdirizaq Afgadud and Member of Parliament Abdirashid Hidig, the operation was under way near the town of Dhobley, close to the Kenyan border. They said U.S. air support backed Ethiopian and Somali government forces who battled Islamist fighters and al Qaeda operatives.

A Somalian official told CNN the United States confirmed to them Mohammed was killed and added no civilians were harmed in the operation. (Posted 8:15 a.m.)

US Air sweetens attempt to merge with Delta

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- US Airways Group, Inc. said Wednesday it has increased its offer to merge with larger rival Delta Air Lines, Inc. to $10.2 billion.

Under the new offer, Delta's unsecured creditors would receive $5 billion in cash and 89.5 million shares of US Airways stock.

The new offer, which is set to expire on Feb. 1 pending creditor support, is based on Tuesday's closing stock price, the No. 7 U.S. carrier said.

Delta, which has been operating under Chapter 11 protection since September 2005, rejected an $8.3 billion takeover offer from US Airways in November. (Posted 7:43 a.m.)

4 said killed in Sunni rocket strike in outskirts of Baghdad's Sadr City

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The office of a powerful Shiite cleric in Iraq said four people on the outskirts of the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City were killed Wednesday by a rocket presumably fired from a nearby Sunni neighborhood.

The media office of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr said a Katyusha rocket, launched from the Sunni neighborhood of Fadhel, destroyed a house and killed four family members there.

Police and the U.S. military had no information on the incident. However, such a report reflects the ongoing, raging Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad and other places in the country.

Sadr City -- the scene of much violence and instability during the war -- is a bastion of support for al-Sadr and his Mehdi Army militia. (Posted 7:42 a.m.)

Murtha to hold hearings on closing 'eyesore' Gitmo by cutting off funds

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Calling the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, "an eyesore to the country", Rep. John Murtha, said Tuesday he plans to hold hearings to closing it down and threatened to "cut off the money" to make it happen.

"This is an eyesore to the country," the veteran Pennsylvania Democrat, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said of the facility, where about 400 of a peak 750 detainees from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are kept.

Murtha said Congress could easily effect the change he seeks: "We just cut off the money." (Posted 7:45 a.m.)


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