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Friday, March 30

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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 Time.

United Airlines employee arrested for carrying gun on plane

(CNN) -- An off-duty United Airlines flight attendant carried a gun on a United Airlines flight from Atlanta and was arrested after landing at Washington Dulles International Airport on Friday, airport officials said.

Dulles authorities said the employee inadvertently brought the concealed handgun onboard but notified airport officials after landing, CNN affiliate WJLA reported.

TSA spokesman Barry Phelps said the employee was arrested before she went through the security checkpoint in Dulles. He would not identify her.

United Airlines told CNN one of their employees was arrested Friday but declined to further comment.

Phelps said TSA and FBI officials in Washington, D.C. would investigate the incident. (Posted 2:44 a.m.)

Pakistan test-fires short-range ballistic missile

(CNN) -- Pakistan successfully test-fired on Saturday a short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missile capable of traveling about 124 miles (200 km), the Pakistan Army said in a statement.

The Hatf-II Abdali missile, which was "indigenously developed" and can carry "all types of warheads," was aimed at validating "the desired technical parameters."

The army did not state where in Pakistan the missile was test-fired.

In late February Pakistan test-fired a new version of a ballistic missile that is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead up to 1,245 miles (2000 km).

CNN's Syed Mohsin Naqvi in Pakistan on Friday said missile tests have become more routine there but the government notifies neighboring India in advance of all tests.

Both nuclear countries reached an agreement in 2006 that stipulates each will notify the other before conducting missile tests. (Posted 2:30 a.m.)

Deal reached on Nepal Maoists joining government

KATHMANDU, Nepal (CNN) -- After weeks of negotiations, agreement was reached between the governing coalition and former Maoist rebels on the latter joining an interim government as part of the ongoing peace process, a source close to the government told CNN Friday.

"As per the agreement, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's Nepali Congress party will have five ministries, including the key ministries of defense, home and finance," the source said. "The Maoists will have five ministerial berths in the 21 member cabinet."

A formal announcement is expected on Saturday, to be followed by the swearing in ceremony in parliament.

The five ministries the Maoists will have include the information and communication ministries, while the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) will also have five, including the foreign ministry.

The smaller parties of the present seven-party coalition are also getting ministerial berths. (Posted 10:24 p.m.)

Report: Pentagon can keep war going until July without new spending bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A new analysis of funding for U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes the Army could continue to wage war through July without additional funding from Congress -- an analysis that may bolster Democrats in their increasingly contentious veto showdown with President Bush.

In a report prepared for the Senate Budget Committee, the non-partisan Congressional Research Service said the Pentagon has flexibility to transfer money from elsewhere for "urgent requirements" and could finance the war with current appropriations "through most of July 2007."

Both President Bush and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have said the Pentagon needs Congress to approve additional war funding by April 15, or military operations will begin to be impacted.

The House and Senate have both passed supplementary appropriations bills for war operations, but the bills contain language setting out deadlines for withdrawing U.S. combat troops from Iraq. Bush has vowed to veto any spending bill with a deadline, raising the possibility of a protracted dispute with Congress that could delay military funding.

-- From CNN Congressional Correspondent Dana Bash (Posted 7 p.m.)

Justice Dept. contends search of Jefferson's office was legal; says property should not be returned

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The search of Rep. William Jefferson's congressional office last year was legal and did not violate the Constitution, as his lawyers contend, the Justice Department said Friday in court documents.

Jefferson, D-La., has filed an appeal of a lower court ruling which said the search did not violate the Constitution's speech and debate clause. His lawyers want the material seized in the May 2006 search returned to the congressman.

In legal papers filed with an appeals court, the Justice Department argued against that, saying it had to conduct the search because prosecutors and FBI agents needed the material as part of its bribery investigation against Jefferson.

Jefferson, who has not been charged, has consistently maintained he is not guilty of breaking any laws. Prosecutors say the FBI has investigated Jefferson for two years.

-- From CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn (Posted 6:54 p.m.)

Pet food maker Hill's adds dry food to recall

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The wet pet food recall that has killed at least 14 animals and sickened hundreds extended into the dry pet food market Friday.

Hill's Pet Nutrition announced a voluntary recall of Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry food as a precaution because it may contain a hazardous chemical that was identified earlier Friday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to be associated with a broader recall of over 90 types of wet, cat and dog food.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Donald Smith, a veterinarian from Cornell University, said an independent lab identified melamine as the toxic agent found in the urine and kidneys of a dead cat and several sick ones after eating the wet pet food recalled earlier this month.

The melamine was found in wheat gluten, a pet food additive that was imported from China. Melamine is a chemical used to make fertilizers and plastic utensils.

-- By CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 6:30 p.m.)

Senator putting hold on nomination of top DHS official

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said Friday he will place a hold on the nomination of a top Department of Homeland Security official to protest the department's failure to implement a program that Wyden has long supported.

Wyden is blocking the nomination of Julie Myers, who has served as assistant secretary of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) since President Bush named her in a recess appointment in January 2006. A Senate committee is now considering Bush's renomination of Myers to the post, which is necessary for her to continue in the job.

Under Senate rules, a single senator can block a nomination of a presidential appointee. -- From CNN Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 6:21 p.m.)

Despite public mood, GOP lawmakers still stand with Bush against Iraq deadline

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Despite polls showing most Americans want their lawmakers to support a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, most Republicans in Congress still stand behind President Bush in his steadfast opposition to any congressionally mandated departure date.

When the Senate voted this week to include a non-binding March 2008 deadline in a bill funding the war, only two out of 49 Republicans supported it. And when the House went even further last week and passed a binding deadline of September 2008, only two of 201 GOP members voted yes.

Bush put this unity on display Thursday, inviting the entire House Republican membership to the White House as he reiterated his vow to veto any war funding measure that contains a deadline. -- From CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider (Posted 5:32 p.m.)

FDA identifies another hazardous chemical in pet food recall

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Amid the probe into a pet food recall that has killed at least 14 animals and sickened hundreds, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday that a hazardous chemical that originated in China has been linked to the contamination.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, and Dr. Donald Smith, a veterinarian from Cornell University, said an independent lab identified melamine as the toxic agent found in the urine and kidneys of a dead cat and several sick ones after eating the recalled food.

The melamine was found in wheat gluten, a wet pet food additive that was imported from China. Melamine is a chemical used to make fertilizers and plastic utensils. -- By CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 5:30 p.m.)

U.S. to freeze assets of Iranian weapons manufacturer

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department is adding a major Iranian weapons conglomerate to a "freeze" list sent to the banking industry as part of a U.N. resolution against Iran's nuclear development program.

In a decision announced Friday, the State Department said Iran's Defense Industries Organization (DIO) "materially contributed to the development of Iran's nuclear and missile programs."

The U.N. resolution prompting the freeze was passed in late December. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters previous sanctions already caught money that might have gone to Iran for weapons production. "At this point we'd be surprised if there were any assets in the United States or under the control of U.S. entities, but there may well be." -- From CNN's Paul Courson (Posted 3:52 p.m.)

White House criticizes Pelosi trip to Syria

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The White House has criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plans to stop in Syria next week during a Middle East trip that began Friday.

She will be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Syria since relations deteriorated between Damascus and Washington. The United States has accused Syria of aiding the Sunni insurgency in western Iraq with weapons and fighters. Syria also is accused of supporting the militant extremist groups Hezbollah, a Shiite political party and militia, and Hamas.

"We do not encourage and, in fact, we discourage members of Congress to make such visits to Syria," said White House deputy spokeswoman Dana Perino. "This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror, one that is trying to disrupt the Sinora government in Lebanon and one that is allowing foreign fighters to flow through its borders to Iraq." (Posted 3:38 p.m.)

Australian detainee at Gitmo guilty of supporting terrorism

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration's first conviction of a detainee held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was made Friday when a judge accepted a guilty plea from the man once called the "Australian Taliban," military officials at the Cuban base said Friday.

Australian David Hicks, whom the United States has held for the past five years as a suspected terrorist, pleaded guilty to a single count of "providing material support for terrorism," officials said.

Along with the plea, a pretrial agreement limits the prison sentence to a maximum of seven years, not including the time Hicks has already served, officials said. A military jury will decide the fate of Hicks at the end of the trial. However, military officials said the convening authority will suspend part of the recommended jury sentence. -- From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 3:23 p.m.)

Military: One of Khalis car bombs was an ambulance

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- One of three bombs that detonated Thursday in the Diyala province town of Khalis, north of Baghdad, was an improvised explosive device stowed in an ambulance, the U.S. military said Friday.

The ambulance bomb was the third to detonate, the military said, and was believed to be targeting the first responders to the other blasts. The bombings, at a marketplace, killed 43 people and wounded 86. (Posted 3:03 p.m.)

Chocolate Jesus sculpture draws opposition from Catholic group

NEW YORK (CNN) -- A sculpture of a crucified and naked Jesus made entirely out of chocolate was set to show in a Manhattan gallery during Easter week, but opposition from a Roman Catholic group has caused the gallery and the hotel associated to it, to reconsider.

"My Sweet Lord", a sculpture by Cosimo Cavallaro, was to be exhibited for two hours a day during the week leading up to Easter in the ground floor window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan. The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights was outraged when they heard about the exhibition.

The group sees the sculpture as an attack on Christians during Holy Week and takes issue with the fact that it depicts Jesus naked, said spokeswoman Kiera McCaffrey. "They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammed, naked with his genitals exposed, during Ramadan," said McCaffrey. -- From CNN's Amy Sahba and Kelly Marshall (Posted 3:02 p.m.)

Gonzales in Boston can't escape questions on attorney firings

BOSTON (CNN) -- Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales on Friday once again defended his controversial decision to dismiss eight U.S. attorneys last year.

His appearance comes one day after his former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales' statements that he was not involved in the firings until late in the process was "inaccurate."

Sampson said he and Gonzales began discussing the subject as early as Jan. 9, 2005, a month before Gonzales took office. The former top aide said he had several discussions with his boss over the next two years.

However, Gonzales said the two didn't discuss the issue until he took office in early February that year. (Posted 2:09 p.m.)

Military officials deplore al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent tactics

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. military officials on Friday emphasized and deplored the dangers posed by al Qaeda in Iraq and denounced the insurgents' use of chlorine gas and children in carrying out attacks in Iraq, besieged by Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence.

This week has been particularly bloody, with scores killed in many incidents, including high-profile bombings in Shiite areas in Baghdad, Khalis in Diyala province, and Tal Afar in Nineveh province.

The Tal Afar truck bombings, which killed 85 on Tuesday, sparked retaliation in a Sunni district, where 70 people were shot dead. On Friday, 18 police officers in Nineveh province were arrested in connection with the reprisals. (Posted 1:17 p.m.)

18 police officers arrested in Tal Afar reprisal killings

From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Eighteen police officers were arrested in Iraq's Nineveh province on Friday in connection with the reprisal killings of 70 people in Tal Afar, a police official said.

The reprisal killings were carried out late Tuesday and Wednesday morning, conducted after truck bombings in Shiite districts in that northern Iraqi city on Tuesday killed 85 people.

Gen. Wathiq Abdul Qadir al-Hamadani, head of Nineveh police, said that Iraqi security forces arrested the officers.

The 18 are accused of working with Shiite militia to kill people in the Wahad Sunni district. The suspects had been identified by members of targeted Sunni families, al-Hamadani said.

It was not disclosed with what branch the police were affiliated.(Posted 1 p.m.)

International organization rejects '.xxx' porn domain

By CNN's Zak Sos in New York

LISBON, Portugal (CNN) -- An international agency tasked with the responsibility of setting guidelines for the creation of Internet domain names voted Friday to reject a company's proposal to create an ".xxx" domain for adult Web sites.

The proposal by Toronto-based Internet domain operator ICM Registry LLC was voted down 9-5 by the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). It would have allowed adult websites to voluntarily participate in the industry's first devoted online domain space.

ICANN represents "the final word" on the creation of an ".xxx." domain name, Andrew Robertson, a consultant to the agency, told CNN. However, Robertson added the agency could vote on the matter again during its next round of applications. (Posted 12:59 p.m.)

Commerce Dept. to impose tariffs on some subsidized goods from China

NEW YORK (CNN) -- The U.S. Commerce Department announced Friday that it will reverse its decades-long policy and begin to impose trade tariffs on some subsidized imports from China.

The first duties will be applied to imported glossy paper from China, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez told reporters in Washington.

"As global barriers come down, it's critical for our companies and workers to have a level playing field," Gutierrez said.

According to the U.S.-China Business Council, the Commerce Department has followed for two decades a practice of not applying duties to offset government subsidies in non-market economies like China and Vietnam.

Gutierrez said his agency felt the need to revisit that policy in response to the changing global political and economic landscape. (Posted 12:55 p.m.)

25 slain bodies found in Mosul

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Twenty-five corpses have been found on Friday by police in Mosul, an official with the morgue in that northern Iraqi city said.

Some of the people were shot in the head, others showed signs of torture. Some had been blindfolded and others had their hands tied behind their backs.

There were no other immediate details. (Posted 11:54 a.m.)

Suspect in USS Cole attack says he was tortured into confession

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A Saudi Arabian terror suspect believed to have participated in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 claims he was tortured into admitting responsibility for that and other attacks, according to a hearing transcript released by the Pentagon on Friday.

Abd al Rahim Hussein Mohammed Al Nashiri, one of 14 high-value detainees held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, told a military panel he was tortured by Americans into saying he was responsible for helping to plan that attack and others, including the 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg.

Al Nashiri denied participating in the USS Cole attack. He claimed "he was tortured into confession, and once he made it, his captors were happy."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said all claims of torture are investigated by DoD if he was being held by the military at the time. If the claims of torture were in a time when he was held by another agency, that agency would be responsible for investigating. (Posted 11:48 a.m.)

Iran broadcasts 'confession' of captive British sailor

TEHRAN (CNN) -- New video aired on the Iranian Arabic-language network Al-Alam Friday shows British detainee Nathan Thomas Summers saying he is "grateful no harm has come to us," and apologizing for "entering your waters without permission."

Summers is one of 15 British service members detained by Iran at an undisclosed location since last Friday. Iran claims they "trespassed" into Iranian territorial waters in the Persian Gulf.

Britain says the troops were in Iraqi territorial waters under a U.N. mandate. British Prime Minister Tony Blair slammed Iran Friday, saying, "Captured personnel being paraded and manipulated in this way doesn't fool anyone."

Iran also released a third letter from sailor Faye Turney -- purportedly the lone woman among the 15. The letter apologizes for "entering Iranian waters." CNN cannot independently confirm whether Turney wrote the letter.

Summers' so-called "confession" was the second video Iran has released in the incident. Summers' older brother Nicholas, who is also in the British Royal Navy, called his brother's capture "a big shock."

"It just doesn't feel real," he said. The military gave him leave to be with his family during the ordeal. (Posted 11:15 a.m.)

Iran releases 3rd letter purportedly from female British sailor

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Iran on Friday released a third letter purportedly from female British sailor Faye Turney.

CNN cannot independently determine whether Turney wrote the letter and does not know the conditions under which the captive wrote it.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair slammed the Iranian government Friday after it released a second video of the British service members. Below are the first few paragraphs of the hand-written letter, released by the Iranian Embassy in Britain:

"To British People,

"I am writing to you as a British service person who has been sent to Iraq, sacrificed due to the intervening policies of the Bush and Blair governments.

"We were arrested after entering Iranian waters by the Iranian forces. For this I am deeply sorry. I understand that this has caused even more distrust for the people of Iran, and the whole area in the British (sic).

"The Iranian people treated me well and have proved themselves to be caring, compassionate, hospitable, and friendly. For this I am thankful.

"I believe that for our countries to move forward, we need to start withdrawing our forces from Iraq, and leave the people of Iraq to start rebuilding their lives. (Posted 9:34 a.m.)

Blair: Iran videos aren't fooling anyone

LONDON (CNN) -- Iranian videos showing captured British military personnel will only further Iran's "isolation," British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday.

"I really don't know why the Iranian regime keeps doing this. I mean all it does is enhance people's sense of disgust," he said.

Blair vowed to continue the fight for the release of the 15 service members "with the necessary firmness and determination."

International leaders already have called for the service members' release, and Blair said there will be "a strong statement from the European Union today." But, he added, it is also important "to be patient."

Blair called it "perfectly obvious that these people were in Iraqi waters under a U.N. mandate" when they were seized last Friday. He added that there is "absolutely no question about the unlawful nature of their capture."

He vowed to manage their release "in a determined way, but also a calm way, because it's the lives of the personnel that come first."(Posted 9:15 a.m.)

11 militants seized in anti-terror operations in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Eleven militants were arrested by coalition forces on Friday morning, the U.S. military said.

Six "suspected terrorists" were seized in an operation near the Syrian border. The suspects have "alleged links to al Qaeda and foreign fighter facilitation." The exact location was not provided.

Five people "with alleged involvement in foreign fighter facilitation" were seized in a raid north of Karma -- which is in Anbar province. (Posted 7:09 a.m.)

Iran may release the female British sailor and allow Turkish diplomats visit the other captives

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said he will "reconsider" the release of captive British female sailor Faye Turney after Friday talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his spokesman Akif Beki told CNN.

Iran "will look into it and reconsider the release of the women sailor," Ahmadinejad said, according to Beki.

Ahmadinejad also said he would "issue the necessary orders" to consider an offer posed by Erdogan to send neutral Turkish envoys to visit the 15 British sailors and marines who were detained last week in the Persian Gulf, Iran's semi-official Mehr News Agency reported Friday.

During a conference call reportedly initiated by Erdogan on Thursday, Ahmadinejad was pressed to allow the Turkish ambassador in Tehran to visit with the British captives.

-- CNN's Shirzad Bozorgmehr and Nicky Robertson contributed to this report (Posted 5:16 a.m.)

Bombings in Baghdad, Khalis kill 124; 14 killed in, near Baghdad in other attacks

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The death toll from a pair of deadly bombings in crowded Shiite marketplaces in the Iraqi capital and in Diyala province climbed to 124, an Interior Ministry official said on Friday.

The strikes erupted as shoppers in Iraq filled marketplaces on Thursday to buy goods at the start of the weekend and the eve of the weekly Muslim holy day of Friday.

In the latest bombing, at least one suicide bomber wearing an explosive vest detonated in a crowded Baghdad marketplace in the northeastern Shiite district of Shaab. At least 81 people were killed and 105 others were wounded. (Posted 5:16 a.m.)

Roadside bomb kills U.S. soldier in southern Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- One U.S. soldier was killed and another was wounded when a roadside bomb exploded Thursday in southern Baghdad, a U.S. military statement released Friday said.

The soldiers are members of Multi-National Division - Baghdad.

Since the start of the war more than four years ago, the U.S. military has suffered 3,246 fatalities in Iraq. (Posted 5:15 a.m.)

NATO soldier killed, three wounded in Afghan military operations

KABUL (CNN) -- One NATO soldier was killed and three others were wounded Thursday evening during military operations in eastern Afghanistan, a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said Friday.

All four soldiers were initially evacuated to a medical facility, but one died later from his wounds. The other three remain in stable condition, the statement said.

The nationalities of the four were not immediately available. (Posted 2:14 a.m.)



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