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Friday, January 26

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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 Standard.

Source: Rove, Bartlett subpoenaed by Libby defense

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Two of President Bush's top advisers, Karl Rove and Dan Bartlett, have been subpoenaed to testify as possible witnesses in the defense of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, although it remains unclear whether either man will actually be called to the stand, a legal source familiar with the case told CNN Friday.

Rove, Bush's long-time political confident, serves as deputy chief of staff at the White House; Bartlett is a counselor to the president and the former White House communications director.

Rove and Bartlett are on a list of possible defense witnesses that includes Cheney, his current chief of staff, David Addington, and a number of journalists and current and former White House officials.

Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, is fighting charges of perjury and obstruction of justice with a defense strategy that includes portraying him as someone thrown into a "meat grinder" to protect Rove. (Posted 10:01 p.m.)

Huckabee to form committee for 2008 White House race

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fresh off a decade at the helm of state government in Little Rock, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will form a presidential exploratory committee next week, the initial step in a bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, a Huckabee adviser told CNN Friday.

Huckabee, 51, who was barred by term limits from seeking re-election last year, will form the committee early next week, perhaps as early as Monday, the adviser said. He is the 10th Republican to either form an exploratory committee or announce plans to do so.

Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister and former religious broadcaster, is likely to appeal to evangelical conservatives in the GOP base, some of whom have expressed qualms about the two potential Republican candidates now at the top of the polls, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

The former governor opposes abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and he has expressed support for teaching creationism in schools alongside evolution, in order to provide students with a variety of viewpoints. (Posted 9:08 p.m.)

Navy helicopter crashes west of San Diego

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy helicopter crashed Friday near San Clemente Island, killing at least one of the four people aboard, a Navy spokesman told CNN.

Commander Jack Hanzlick said the MH 60 Sierra "Seahawk" helicopter was conducting a routine training mission off the USS Bonhomme Richard about 50 miles west of Camp Pendleton. Search and rescue efforts are under way, he said.

Hanzlick said there was no information regarding the identities of those aboard.(Posted 8:56 p.m.)

Only officer charged in Abu Ghraib scandal to face court martial

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The only officer charged with a crime in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal has been ordered to face a court-martial, the Army said Friday.

Lt. Col. Steven Lee Jordan, charged with eight counts, will be arraigned Tuesday at Fort McNair in Washington.

Jordan, a reservist, was the commander of the Joint Interrogation Briefing Center at Abu Ghraib. He has been charged with disobeying a superior officer, willful dereliction of duty, two counts of failure to obey a lawful general order, cruelty and maltreatment of detainees through forced nudity, two counts of making false statements and false swearing. (Posted 6:04 p.m.)

Pelosi, other House leaders visit Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- House Democratic leaders on a visit to Iraq came away convinced that a political solution is necessary, according to a statement released by the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi made the trip with Democratic Reps. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, Ike Skelton of Missouri, Tom Lantos of California, Silvestre Reyes of Texas and Nita Lowey of New York, plus a lone Republican, Rep. Dave Hobson of Ohio.

"We are convinced that there must be a political solution to the problems in Iraq," the statement said. "The sooner Iraqi leaders make necessary political accommodations, including amending their constitution to resolve outstanding differences among all Iraqi communities, the better the chances for ending the sectarian violence. We encourage active diplomacy in the region.

Pelosi and the others, who include the chairmen of several committees, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, along with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizad, and senior U.S. military officers, including multi-national commander Gen. George Casey. (Posted 5:19 p.m.)

Federal judge rejects proposed settlement between State Farm, Mississippi AG over Katrina claims

GULFPORT, Miss. (CNN) -- A federal judge Friday rejected a proposed settlement agreement between State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. and the Mississippi attorney general that would have impacted nearly 35,000 homeowners whose property was damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

But U.S. District Judge L.T. Senter Jr. left the door open for a new settlement agreement to be submitted, rejecting the proposed settlement "without prejudice."

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Tuesday, when the proposed settlement was announced, that it could mean up to $500 million in payments to property owners in coastal Mississippians who were dissatisfied with their insurance payouts following Katrina.

But, Senter wrote in his opinion, "In the absence of substantially more information than I now have before me, I am unable to say, even preliminarily, that the proposed settlement establishes a procedure that is fair, just, balanced or reasonable." (Posted 5:14 p.m.)

Fatah, Hamas suspend talks

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Hamas and Fatah have suspended talks because of a groundswell of violence between the rival Palestinian factions, spokesmen for the two groups said Friday.

Ongoing clashes between the two groups Friday left at least 11 people dead -- including eight killed and about 30 people wounded at the Jabaliya refugee camp north of Gaza City, Palestinian security and medical sources said. In addition, at least 18 people on both sides were kidnapped at Jabaliya.

At least two people were killed in clashes in Gaza City, and a 2-year-old boy was killed in Khan Younis, the Palestinian sources said.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- Fatah's militant wing -- also kidnapped 11 Hamas members in Nablus in the West Bank but later released them, a spokesman for the Brigades said. (Posted 4:31 p.m.)

GOP Senate leader says troop surge is Iraq government's 'last chance to step up'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday he is "skeptical" about the Iraqi government and warned the recent U.S troop increase ordered by President Bush is the Iraqis' "last chance to step up and show they can be effective and can join with us to get this mission accomplished."

"This is it," he said. McConnell supports the troop increase.

His blunt assessment came the same day Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that next Tuesday the Senate will take a key test vote on a resolution stating the troop increase is "against the national interest." The vote will determine if Reid can get support from at least 60 senators, the minimum needed to pass it.

Either way, Reid said, the coming Senate debate will show that a bipartisan majority opposes the president's policy. (Posted 3:47 p.m.)

General Assembly resolution condemns denial of Holocaust

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- The U.N. General Assembly on Friday adopted a resolution condemning denial of the Holocaust.

The resolution -- which was adopted by consensus -- comes a few weeks after Iran sponsored a conference questioning the event.

Iran -- a majority Shiite Muslim nation whose government is virulently anti-Israel -- disassociated itself from the resolution. Other Muslim countries such as Egypt and Indonesia were among those that backed the resolution and representatives from those countries spoke of their support of it on the assembly floor.

The United States was a main sponsor of the resolution, which was co-sponsored by more than 100 countries. The Holocaust was the Nazi campaign of extermination against Jews during World War II. Around 6 million Jewish people were slaughtered at that time. (Posted 2:14 p.m.)

Officials: Bodies of 4 U.S. soldiers found miles away from Karbala attack site

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The bodies of four of the five U.S. soldiers killed Saturday in an attack on a government building in Karbala, Iraq, were found miles away from the scene, contradicting initial reports and indicating the soldiers were abducted, Pentagon officials told CNN Friday.

The military said Sunday that five U.S. soldiers died in the attack on the Karbala Joint Coordination Center. But the Pentagon officials said Friday that four of the soldiers' bodies were found inside the GMC Suburban vehicles used by the gunmen, about 20 to 25 miles away from Karbala in Babil province.

It was unclear whether the soldiers were killed at the scene, en route to Babil province or just before the vehicles were discovered.

In the attack, about 30 gunmen, wearing uniforms and driving vehicles similar to those used by U.S. troops, flashed fake badges and passed unimpeded through checkpoints before opening fire on American soldiers once they were in the Karbala government compound. (Posted 1:45 p.m.)

ElBaradei calls for timeout regarding Iran nuclear program

DAVOS, Switzerland (CNN) -- International Atomic Energy Agency head Mohammed ElBaradei said Friday he was calling for a timeout regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, hoping that talks on the matter can resume.

ElBaradei told CNN International that the timeout would mean Iran would freeze its nuclear program, while the United Nations would temporarily suspend the sanctions package against Iran that took effect last month.

"The key to the Iranian issue is a direct engagement between Iran and the U.S., similar to North Korea," ElBaradei told CNN International's Becky Anderson. "North Korea is a good example. For years, things were not moving. Only when the U.S. talked directly with the North Koreans, we had a positive report. If we are able to talk to the North Koreans, we ought to be able to talk to the Iranians." (Posted 1:22 p.m.)

House majority leader threatens revised resolution authorizing force in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats may push a new bill authorizing the use of force in Iraq -- replacing the 2002 bill that allowed the Bush administration to proceed with the war, a top Democrat said Friday.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer -- number two in the House behind Speaker Nancy Pelosi -- said that is one step Democrats might pursue to change conditions in Iraq.

After a series of congressional hearings on the war, "we will then explore appropriate ways to affect the policy and strategy being pursued in Iraq," Hoyer said in a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

"Possible vehicles" include spending bills for military and diplomatic activities in Iraq "and possibly a revised authorization for the use of military force in Iraq that more accurately reflects the mission of our troops on the ground," he said. (Posted 12:08 p.m.)

Bush: U.S. 'making pretty good progress' on Iran

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Friday the United States does not want to take any action inside Iran's borders, and he believes the U.S. conflict with Iran can be resolved diplomatically.

"In fact, we're making pretty good progress on that front," he said. "I believe we can succeed." Bush did not detail what that progress consists of. He noted that other nations are working with the United States in trying to resolve the conflict over Iran's nuclear ambitions diplomatically, but those nations have long been part of that U.S. effort. (Posted 11 a.m.)

Pelosi, other Democratic House leaders visit Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- In a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a group that included several Democratic House committee chairs Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki emphasized his government's plan to confront terrorists politically as well as militarily, according to a statement issued by al-Maliki's office.

"The PM added that the Baghdad security plan aimed at securing the capital will target all outlaws no matter what their sectarian or ethnic affiliation is," the statement said.

Al-Maliki also discussed the readiness of Iraq's troops to take over security responsibilities, and asked for an acceleration of the process of building up the troops, training them and equipping them, according to the statement.

"Pelosi affirmed her support for the democratic process in Iraq and the transfer of responsibilities to Iraqi troops. Pelosi added she will not object to any efforts made by the U.S. administration to accelerate a complete handover to Iraqi forces," it said. (Posted 10:32 a.m.)

Senate approves Petraeus as Iraq coalition commander

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On a vote of 81-0, the Senate on Friday approved the nomination of Lt. Gen. David Petraeus to become coalition commander in Iraq

Petraeus was not watching the vote. He was at the White House for a meeting with President Bush, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bush was scheduled to make a statement at the end of the Oval Office meeting.

On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services committee voted 25-0 to approve Petraeus' nomination. (Posted 10:19 a.m.)

Six dead in clashes between Hamas and Fatah

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Six Palestinians were killed Friday in clashes between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian security sources said. The violence between the two rival Palestinian factions took place at the Jabaliya refugee camp, north of Gaza City.

Those killed were three Hamas members, two bystanders and one member of Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the militant wing of the Fatah party, the security sources said. In addition, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades kidnapped 11 Hamas members in Gaza and nine more in Nablus, the security officials told CNN. Hamas kidnapped eight Fatah members in Gaza, security officials said.

Fighting between Fatah and Hamas has raged in recent months. The two groups have differences in ideology and vision over what a Palestinian state should be and how it should be formed. Hamas, which has controlled the Palestinian government since historic elections last year, refuses to recognize the existence of Israel, a prerequisite laid down by Western financial backers if a freezing of funds to the Palestinian territories is to be lifted. (Posted 9:55 a.m.)

Suicide bombing in northern Iraq kills 1, wounds 3

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide bomber wearing an explosives vest blew himself up outside a Shiite mosque in northern Iraq, killing one person and wounding three, police said.

The incident took place on the outskirts of northwest Mosul around 2 p.m. as people filed out of the mosque after their weekly Friday noon prayers. Mosul, in Nineveh province, is the largest city in northern Iraq.

The official said that the suicide bomber detonated the vest as prayer-goers filed out of the mosque.

In eastern Mosul, meanwhile, three police officers were wounded in a roadside bombing. (Posted 9:23 a.m.)

European Union pledging more than $850 million to Afghanistan

BRUSSELS (CNN) -- The European Union is pledging more than $850 million toward weaning Afghanistan from economic dependence on the opium trade and improving rural health care, a top official said Friday.

The EU pledge comes on the heels Thursday of a Bush administration announcement that it will ask for nearly $11 billion in new aid for Afghanistan. Most of the U.S. money will train and equip soldiers and police in the country where the U.S.-led war on terrorism began, White House and State Department officials said.

"The key challenges are to extend the government's authority into the provinces, and to stamp out narcotics production which destabilizes the country politically and economically," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighborhood Policy.

The $10.6 billion U.S. request announced Thursday is on top of the more than $14 billion the United States has spent on reconstruction projects in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that toppled the country's ruling Taliban, the State Department said. (Posted 9:08 a.m.)

Violence around Baghdad leaves at least 17 dead

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least 17 Iraqis were killed and dozens were wounded in violent attacks committed around the capital Friday before noon, according to information from Iraq's interior ministry.

A bomb stashed in a box exploded in a pet market in central Baghdad around 9:50 a.m., killing at least 15 people and wounding 52, an Iraqi interior ministry official said. The Ghazel pet market is a popular destination for civilians on Friday, which is the only day the market is open.

People gather to sell and buy monkeys, cats, dogs and other animals. The same pet market was targeted last December by militants who launched a mortar round into the market, killing three people and wounding 28 in the attack.

Other violence that occurred around the capital Friday included a suicide car bomb that targeted an Iraqi army convoy in central Baghdad. It killed two people and wounded 13.

Iraqi security forces found 27 bodies in various Baghdad neighborhoods Friday, including the body of well-known Iraqi boxer Hassan Hadi in Haifa Street, Baghdad police said. Hadi had been kidnapped by gunmen Tuesday, a police official said. (Posted 9:01 a.m.)

Thailand junta leader: martial law to be lifted today

BANGKOK (CNN) -- Martial law in Thailand, imposed in September following a coup by the country's military, was to be lifted Friday, the leader of the country's military junta tells CNN.

The decree imposing martial law will be rescinded by a royal decree by Thailand's King, said Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin.

Sonthi, chairman of the military junta which rules the country, said the royal decree, by the country's constitutional monarch, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, will effectively lift martial law in 41 provinces.

"Lifting martial law has many procedures the royal decree from his majesty is expected today." Gen. Sonthi told CNN in an exclusive interview. In November, Sonthi told CNN that martial law would be lifted before year's end, but that date was postponed after bombings that killed three people in Bangkok on New Year's Eve, he said. (Posted 8:54 a.m.)

Several dozen Palestinians fleeing Baghdad make it to Iraq-Syrian border

GENEVA, Switzerland (CNN) -- More than 70 Palestinians fleeing war-torn Baghdad made it to an Iraq-Syrian border town -- safe from the raging violence ripping through the capital, a U.N. agency said on Friday.

Seventy-three people arrived in El Waleed at the Iraq-Syrian border after they took flight from Baghdad when other Palestinians were the subjects of an abduction earlier this week, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said. They arrived Wednesday night. Thirty Palestinian men were seized and then released Tuesday by people dressed in security uniforms.

These Palestinians are among nearly 600 stuck at the Iraq-Syria border, many of them for months. Syria has denied them access and they refuse to return to Baghdad, where Palestinians have been the target of recent numerous attacks.

The UNHCR, the International Committee for the Red Cross and other partners said it is ensuring that enough food, water and relief items are available, along with additional tents. However, the agency says there is no solution in sight for the very vulnerable situation.

Conditions at the border are described as "atrocious," with cold temperatures, limited access to food, crowded and unhygienic tents. Clean water has to be trucked in. The UNHCR estimates 15,000 Palestinian refugees remain in Baghdad, less than half the number prior to 2003. (Posted 8:43 a.m.)

U.S. official: U.S. military authorized to kill Iranian agents in Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration has authorized the U.S. military to capture or kill Iranian agents in Iraq if there is actionable intelligence that the agents are plotting attacks against U.S., other coalition, or Iraqi forces, a U.S. national security official said Friday.

The policy, approved by President Bush in the last couple of months, is aimed at going after Iranian agents involved in those activities in conjunction with members of Iraqi militias, the official said.

President Bush and his advisers had discussed implementing the official policy since last fall, and Bush decided to sign it more recently because of a deterioration of conditions in Iraq and because the United States is looking to get tougher with Iran, the official said.

The Washington Post first reported the development, citing "government and counterterrorism officials with direct knowledge of the effort." (Posted 8:41 a.m.)

2 killed in Pakistan suicide bombing

ISLAMABAD (CNN) -- A suicide bomber detonated outside the Islamabad Marriott Hotel in the city center of Pakistan's capital -- Islamabad, killing two guards, police said.

According to police, the bomber tried to come into the hotel through a laundry entrance when he was stopped by guards and set off his explosives.

The blast damaged the hotel, as well as a number of vehicles in the area. Police have cordoned off the area and are investigating. (Posted 5:30 a.m.)

U.S. Marine killed in action while fighting in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine assigned to Regimental Combat Team 6 died Friday from "wounds sustained due to enemy action" while fighting in Iraq's volatile Anbar province, the U.S. military announced.

The latest death brings the total number of American military personnel who have died in Iraq to 3,065. (Posted 4 a.m.)

A day after Beirut unrest, an 'uneasy calm' prevails

BEIRUT (CNN) -- The Lebanese capital emerged Friday morning from a night of relative calm after a day of violence that erupted between pro-government and opposition supporters at Beirut Arab University.

An overnight curfew ended at 6 a.m. (11 p.m. ET Thursday) and CNN's Anthony Mills described the mood in Beirut as an "uneasy calm."

Thursday's clashes began around 3:30 p.m. (8:30 a.m. ET) between a student group that supports Prime Minister Fouad Siniora's pro-Western government and a student group that supports the opposition Hezbollah.

Four people were killed and 151 were wounded, Lebanese security sources said Friday. (Posted 3:32 a.m.)

Senior Taliban leader may have been killed in NATO attack

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- A NATO airstrike on an insurgent command post in eastern Afghanistan Thursday may have killed a senior Taliban leader and his deputies, a NATO statement said.

According to NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), precision-guided munitions were used in the strike near Musa Qala in Helmand province. NATO provided no additional details on the aftermath of the attack. (Posted 12:18 a.m.)


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