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News update

Wednesday, May 23

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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.

Israel arrests senior Hamas members

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli security forces arrested 33 senior members of Hamas during overnight raids in the West Bank and are questioning them, an IDF spokesman said Thursday.

"Among those arrested are the Education Minister (Nasser Al Shaer), the mayors of Nablus and Qalqiliya, members of the parliament and senior activists in the organization," the statement said.

Hamas militants have launched hundreds of Qassam rockets into Israel from Gaza in recent weeks.

Hamas came to power in parliamentary elections in January 2006 after more than a decade of Fatah rule over the Palestinian Authority. But the United States and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist organization, and the European Union joined them in cutting off aid over the group's refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist. (Posted 2:45 a.m.)

U.S. servicemember's body identified

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military on Thursday confirmed the identity of the body of a man dragged from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad a day earlier is that of missing U.S. soldier Pfc. Joseph J. Anzack Jr., 20, of Torrance, Calif., Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle told CNN.

Aberle also said reports of a second body being found on Wednesday are "false."

Anzack was one of three soldiers missing after an attack on a U.S. military observation post just outside Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad, in an area known as the Triangle of Death. Four other American soldiers and an Iraqi soldier were found dead at the scene of the deadly ambush on May 12.

On Wednesday, police pulled what turned out to be Anzack's body from the Euphrates River in Mussayib where Iraqi civilians had seen it floating. Mussayib is about 35 km south of Mahmoudiya, where the attack took place.

Witnesses said he had a gunshot wound to the head and torso, and a U.S. military source in Iraq told CNN the body was clad in U.S. military-issued pants. (Posted 2:20 a.m.)

U.S. servicemember's body identified

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. military confirms that a body found Wednesday in Iraq is that of Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. (Posted 1:40 a.m.)

Explosion wounds 4 Sri Lankan soldiers, 2 civilians

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- At least four Sri Lankan soldiers and two civilians were wounded Thursday when a Claymore mine exploded near a military bus, just outside Colombo's bustling commercial district, police said.

All of the soldiers were aboard the bus and two were critically wounded. The civilians were passersby.

The attack took place shortly after 8 a.m. along the capital's Reclamation Road, near Colombo's port.

Police blamed the bombing on Tamil Tiger rebels.

The incident came only hours after rebel fighters overran a small Sri Lankan naval unit on Delft Island, near the government-controlled Jaffna peninsula, the military said. The unit was guarding a radar station.

According to the military, the area has been recaptured, but at least six sailors were killed.

The Tamil Tigers have been fighting since 1983 for a separate homeland for the Tamil minority in the north and east, citing decades of discrimination by the majority Sinhalese. The government has vowed to dislodge the rebels from their eastern stronghold.

About 65,000 people were killed before a 2002 cease-fire, which has become frayed by recent fighting between Tamil Tigers and the military.

From CNN's Iqbal Athas (Posted 1 a.m.)

Explosion wounds 4 Sri Lankan soldiers, 2 civilians

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- At least four Sri Lankan soldiers and two civilians were wounded Thursday when a Claymore mine exploded near a military bus, just outside Colombo's bustling commercial district, police said.

All of the soldiers were aboard the bus and two were critically wounded. The civilians were passersby.

The attack took place shortly after 8 a.m. along the capital's Reclamation Road, near Colombo's port.

Police blamed the bombing on Tamil Tiger rebels.

From CNN's Iqbal Athas (Posted 12:35 a.m.)

6 wounded in Gaza airstrikes; arrests in West Bank

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Six people were wounded Wednesday night in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, the Palestinian Ramattan news agency said.

The IDF confirmed several of the airstrikes, saying one targeted a car carrying Hamas operatives and others targeted businesses in Gaza that have been transferring funds from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to support Hamas and other organizations. "Millions of dollars have been transferred each month to terror organizations in the Gaza Strip, which has enabled the purchase and manufacture of weaponry and the carrying out of attacks against Israeli civilians, including Qassam launchings," the IDF said in a written statement.

In addition, Palestinian security sources said that Nasser Al Shaer, minister of culture and education, was arrested by Israeli forces in the West Bank city of Nablus. Also arrested were two members of Parliament and two municipality heads, the security sources said.

The IDF said arrest operations were taking place in the West Bank. Israeli security sources said 20 Islamic Jihad terror operatives, including senior members, were arrested earlier this week in Bethlehem. They were taken for questioning by security forces, the sources said. Islamic Jihad has planned and attempted to carry out attacks against Israeli civilians and IDF forces, especially in the Bethlehem area, the sources said. (Posted 9:31 p.m.)

Castro tells Cubans his condition has stabilized

HAVANA (CNN) -- Cuban leader Fidel Castro discussed details of his recent health problems for the first time Wednesday, telling his countrymen in a written message that he underwent several operations, some of which were unsuccessful, but that his condition has now stabilized.

In the message, which will be published Thursday in Cuban newspapers, Castro also explained his lack of public appearances since his illness, saying that such appearances require him to get haircuts and shaves that he does not have time for. Castro said his prolonged recovery from the surgeries was due to the fact that the first operations he underwent were not successful. He also disclosed that during his illness, he received nutrition intravenously, although he said he is no longer doing so.

Castro said he reads, talks on the phone and performs rehabilitation exercises and that his weight has now stabilized at 80 kilograms, or about 175 pounds. The message, dated Wednesday, was provided to news organizations prior to its publication Thursday.

On July 31, Castro, 80, temporarily relinquished his presidential powers to his brother, Raul, after undergoing intestinal surgery. The move touched off a flurry of speculation that the Communist leader, who came to power in 1959, might be dying. -- From CNN's Morgan Neill (Posted 9:14 p.m.)

N.Y. Gov: All outstanding claims from World Trade Center destruction settled

NEW YORK (CNN) -- All outstanding insurance claims related to the destruction of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, have been resolved, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer said Wednesday, calling it "a monumentally important step forward."

Spitzer said the $2 billion settlement between developer Larry Silverstein and seven insurance companies was the largest in regulatory history and clears the way for redevelopment.

The agreement was negotiated by Spitzer and New York State Insurance Superintendent Eric Dinallo, and ends a six-year legal battle that had stalled the development of Ground Zero. The settlement money will bring the total amount that will be paid by the insurance companies to $4.2 billion. (Posted 7:44 p.m.)

Ex-Justice aide contradicts deputy AG, admits improper political hiring

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former Justice Department official said Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty was "not fully candid" about the 2006 firings of U.S. attorneys and described an "uncomfortable" conversation with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the shake-up.

Monica Goodling, a former Gonzales aide and the Justice Department's White House liaison, also acknowledged Wednesday that she screened job applicants based on political ties -- something she said she regretted. Goodling testified before the House Judiciary Committee under a grant of immunity after the controversy over the firings prompted her to invoke her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. She took the Fifth after McNulty told senators that she had incompletely briefed him about the firings, which he had described as "performance-related" in February testimony.

Goodling, who resigned shortly afterward, said McNulty's accusations were false. "Despite my and others' best effort, the deputy's public testimony was incomplete or inaccurate in a number of respects," she said. She said McNulty "was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision," and did not disclose the White House's interest in replacing the U.S. attorney in Little Rock, Ark., with a former aide to White House political adviser Karl Rove.

After Goodling's testimony, McNulty issued a statement saying he "testified truthfully" before the Senate panel "based on what I knew at the time." -- CNN's Terry Frieden and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report. (Posted 7:43 p.m.)

Iraq funding vote leaves Democrats in tricky position

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats in Congress have been put between a rock and a hard place by a looming decision on an appropriations bill funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan -- one which does not include any timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Vote "yes," and they are certain to face the wrath of antiwar forces in their political base, who are vowing retaliation against any lawmaker who supports the bill. Vote "no," and they may further delay funding for military operations, opening themselves up to the charge that they don't support the troops.

Viewing those unhappy options, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate decided Tuesday to remove from the bill any timetables, which would have drawn another veto from President Bush and delayed funding that both sides agree needs to be approved by Memorial Day in order to avoid impacting military operations.

But in an illustration of the leadership's mixed emotions at giving in to the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said members would not be whipped into voting for the bill -- and the San Francisco Democrat even hedged on whether she herself would support it. -- CNN's Candy Crowley contributed to this report. (Posted 6:43 p.m.)

Israeli forces strike Gaza, wounding 6

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli air forces struck three times in Gaza Wednesday night, wounding a total of six people, the Palestinian Ramattan news agency said.

One attack targeted a Hamas-owned shop, the Israel Defense Forces said. In another attack, a Hamas money-exchange shop was targeted, the IDF said. Three people were wounded, according to Ramattan. The third attack targeted a car whose occupants had fled the vehicle, but three nearby people were wounded, the agency said. The IDF said the car had been carrying Hamas activists.

The IDF said it attacked businesses in Gaza that have been transferring funds from Iran, Syria and Lebanon to support Hamas and other organizations. (Posted 6:42 p.m.)

NYC 'fake firefighter' assault case ends with conviction

(CNN) -- A jury Wednesday found Peter Braunstein, a fashion writer accused of dressing up as a firefighter and sexually assaulting a woman for 13 hours in 2005, guilty of kidnapping, burglary, sex abuse and robbery.

He could be sentenced to 25 years in prison. Sentencing was set for June 18. --From CNN's Amy Sahba New York (Posted 6:35 p.m.)

Feds to test all toothpaste exports from China

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Officials at the Food and Drug Agency told CNN Wednesday that they have initiated a program to test samples of all toothpaste imports from China for a deadly chemical.

The announcement followed a report in Tuesday's New York Times that diethylene glycol, a chemical cousin of glycerin, may have made its way into children's toothpaste exported to the Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica.

There is no evidence that toothpaste containing diethylene glycol is in the United States, the FDA said.

Douglas Arbesfeld, senior communication adviser for the FDA, told CNN that all Chinese toothpastes will be subject to testing in what is billed as a "top priority sampling assignment." --From CNN's Richard Davis (Posted 6:33 p.m.)

Complaint: Liberty University student 'did not want to hurt anyone'

(CNN) -- A first-year Liberty University student arrested after authorities found five explosive devices in the trunk of his car told police he meant to detonate the devices in a field and "did not want to hurt anyone," according to a federal complaint filed against him Wednesday.

Mark David Uhl, 19, was charged with possessing an unregistered firearm.

At the time of his arrest, authorities found in Uhl's trunk "a round metal cookie tin which contained five red cylindrical objects with what appeared to have fuses protruding from the red objects, and a red canister of gas," according to an affidavit filed in the case from an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The objects "were devices consisting of a mixture of gasoline, oil and Styrofoam," a Virginia State Police bomb squad determined, the affidavit said. "The VSP agents described the objects as being a homemade napalm explosive device." (Posted 6 p.m.)

Vice President Cheney's legacy grows by one grandchild

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Cheney's daughter Mary gave birth Wednesday to a son, the White House said.

Mary Cheney, 38, and her partner, Heather Poe, are parents of Samuel David Cheney, who was born at 9:46 a.m. at Sibley Hospital in Washington weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces.

He is the sixth grandchild for the vice president and his wife, Lynne. (Posted 5:23 p.m.)

Lebanon demands Islamic militants surrender; bomb hits Druze town

BEIRUT (CNN) -- Lebanon's defense minister warned Islamic militants holed up in a Palestinian refugee camp Wednesday to surrender or face "decisive" military action, while a bomb rocked a Druze town near Beirut.

The demand came during a truce between Lebanese troops and fighters from Fatah al-Islam in the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli, Lebanon's second-largest city. Thousands of Palestinians begin fleeing the camp Tuesday night after three days of fighting.

Meanwhile, five people were wounded when a bomb went off in Aley, a majority-Druze town about 17 kilometers (11 miles) northeast of Beirut, the country's Internal Security Forces told CNN Wednesday night. The security forces said the bomb was in a bag that had been left in front of a building close to a shopping district.

The bombing was the third in the latest crisis to grip Lebanon, coming after explosions in Christian and Sunni Muslim districts of Beirut on Sunday and Monday. (Posted 4:08 p.m.)

Clinton, Obama mum on how they will vote on war funding bill

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A day before they are to cast an extremely sensitive vote on an Iraq war funding bill, neither of the top two Democratic candidates for president would reveal how they will vote.

Faced with the choice of either voting for a bill that lacks the timetables for troop withdrawal that many in their party are demanding, or opening themselves up to the charge of not supporting the troops by voting against the bill, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama ducked.

At a press conference on the immigration bill, Clinton declined to answer questions about the funding bill, eventually saying, with an edge of frustration in her voice: "When I have something to say, I'll say it, gentlemen."

When Obama departed the Senate floor after delivering a speech on immigration, he told reporters that he hadn't "seen a final product" and didn't want to comment until he did. "I actually want to read the provisions before making a statement on it," he said. "All right?" --By CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett (Posted 3:45 p.m.)

Senate votes to halve number in guest worker program

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate voted Wednesday for an amendment to the Immigration Bill that would cut the number of guest workers from 400,000 to 200,000.

The measure was the second of two Democratic amendments aimed at drastically altering bipartisan immigration legislation. The first, which would have eliminated the guest worker program entirely, was voted down Tuesday.

The amendment passed on a 74-24 vote.

The Immigration Bill is the result of a deal struck after nearly three months of bipartisan talks and endorsed by the White House last week. It would offer the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants now in the United States a path to citizenship, boost border controls and establish a guest-worker program that would grant workers a two-year residency. (Posted 3:38 p.m.)

U.S. military: Sunni-on-Sunni torture rooms found in Anbar province

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces in Iraq have recently uncovered what they call "torture rooms" operated by Sunnis on Sunnis in Anbar province, a military commander said Wednesday.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, in a pretaped interview on CNN's "The Situation Room" and in an earlier press briefing, said 17 kidnapped Iraqis had been found in two hideouts.

He said one of the tortured people was a 13-year-old boy, who was beaten badly. He said freed people told troops that one or two captives had died during the torture sessions.

"This is the nature of the enemy that the Iraqi people are facing here in Iraq," Caldwell said. (Posted 2:58 p.m.)

U.S., Britain to press for new sanctions against Iran

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- American and British diplomats at the United Nations say they will press ahead for new sanctions in the wake of the latest defiance of U.N. demands that Iran stop enriching uranium.

A report issued Wednesday by the United Nations' nuclear watchdog -- the International Atomic Energy Agency -- said Iran has not only ignored the call to halt its nuclear work but has also increased its activities.

The U.N. Security Council has so far imposed two rounds of limited sanctions on Iran. It is unclear how much political will there would be from veto-holding members Russia and China for further significant sanctions. (Posted 2:54 p.m.)

U.S. officials writing new strategy for Iraq

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials said Wednesday that a "joint campaign plan redesign team" is preparing a new diplomatic and military strategy for Iraq, which is expected to be approved by the end of the month.

The team, led by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, is laying out a new course for how to proceed in the four-year-old war, the officials told CNN.

One element of the plan is to try to identify groups of people -- including possibly Sunni extremists and militia groups -- with whom U.S. officials feel they can do business, such as negotiating power-sharing and cease-fire agreements and granting economic aid, the sources said.

But those with whom officials feel they cannot do business -- such as determined suicide bombers -- will remain targets of military forces, the sources said.

The officials cited an inability to maintain current troop levels into the summer as a reason for the changed course. --From CNN's Barbara Starr (Posted 2:45 p.m.)

2 ex-Coke workers given federal prison terms for Pepsi plot deal

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Two former Coca-Cola employees were sentenced Wednesday to serve federal prison terms for conspiring to steal and sell trade secrets to rival Pepsi.

Joya Williams, 42, of Norcross, Ga., received an eight-year prison term, while Ibrahim Dimson, 31, got a five-year term, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office for the Northern District of Georgia. Both were ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution.

Williams was convicted in February on charges that stem from a plot to offer samples of a new Coca-Cola product to Pepsi for $1.5 million. Dimson, who is from New York, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in October.

Edmund Duhaney, 43, of the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, will be sentenced at a later date, said the news release. (Posted 2:30 p.m.)

Gonzales' former counsel denies major role in U.S. attorney firings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In much-anticipated testimony, the former senior counsel to the U.S. attorney general denied Wednesday that she was a primary White House contact during the creation of a Justice Department plan to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year.

Monica Goodling, who also was White House liaison for the agency, testified she had no significant role in determining whose names were to go on the list, which she and other other Justice officials have said was compiled by then-Justice Department Chief of Staff Staff Kyle Sampson, who resigned in March.

But Goodling revealed she had screened applicants for Justice career posts based on political affiliation.

"In every case I tried to act in good faith," she said. But she added, "I do acknowledge I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions, and I regret those mistakes." (Posted 2:20 p.m.)

Finnish soldier killed in Afghanistan

(CNN) -- The Finnish Defense Ministry on Wednesday confirmed that a Finnish soldier was killed in Maymana in northwestern Afghanistan.

"The peacekeeper was killed as he was trying to create better living conditions for the Afghan people, who have been struggling between war and violence for years," the ministry said.

NATO said one of its International Security Assistance Force soldiers was killed and five were wounded Wednesday by an "improvised explosive device" near the Provincial Reconstruction Team Maymana in northern Afghanistan. It didn't release nationalities of the casualties.

Maymana is the capital of Faryab province in northwestern Afghanistan. (Posted 2:14 p.m.)

U.S. claims progress in talks with China; highlights air transport agreement

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States is claiming a new air transport agreement with China as the highlight of two days of economic talks.

Under the new agreement, the number of passenger flights between the United States and China would more than double by 2012. According to Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, the deal would also eliminate nearly all barriers to cargo service by 2011.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson could not claim as much success on the issue of Chinese currency reform, a significant area of disagreement. Critics in the United States say that China continues to undervalue its currency against the dollar, making Chinese goods cheaper in the United States while discouraging U.S. exports to the emerging Asian economic giant.

Paulson, who led the U.S. delegation at the two-day U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue, said that China agrees on the need for more flexibility in the yuan currency, but claimed no breakthrough on the subject. (Posted 2:08 p.m.)

U.S. military commander reiterates Iranian intelligence backing for some Sunni extremist elements

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A U.S. military commander on Wednesday said "very credible intelligence now confirms" that Iranian intelligence agents are funding Sunni extremist elements in Iraq.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a military spokesman, has said before that there have been signs that Sunni extremists were getting some backing from Iranian intelligence. Wednesday he indicated the intelligence is quite solid. Caldwell spoke in a pre-taped interview Wednesday on CNN's "The Situation Room,"

"We now have some very credible intelligence based on both debriefings of individuals who are captured and other sources that now confirms there are Sunni extremist elements that are, in fact, being funded by Iranian intelligence agents, and they are also providing some training for them, too," Caldwell said.

Such backing is significant because Iran is a Shiite nation and has been supportive of Iraqi Shiites, who have been locked in sectarian war with Iraqi Sunnis. The U.S. military in the past has surmised that any Iranian support for Sunnis would be evidence of Iran's penchant for creating instability in the country. (Posted 1:58 p.m.)

Bush lists alleged al Qaeda plots against the United States

NEW LONDON, Conn. (CNN) -- President Bush said Wednesday that authorities have uncovered and halted a number of planned terrorist attacks on the United States before they were carried out.

And he addressed criticism that the conflict in Iraq is comparable to the war in Vietnam. "The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland," he said. "The enemy in Iraq does."

Bush said Osama bin Laden warned the American people in January 2006 that "operations are under preparation and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished."

Among the planned terrorist plots Bush said have been thwarted was one last summer, a plot broken up by British authorities to blow up passenger airplanes as they were flying toward the United States, Bush said. It was disrupted "just two or three weeks away from execution," he said, citing "our intelligence community" as the source of his information. (Posted 1:30 p.m.)

Gonzales' former counsel denies major role in U.S. attorney firings

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- In much-anticipated testimony, the former counsel to the U.S. attorney general denied Wednesday that she was a primary White House contact during the creation of a Justice Department plan to fire eight U.S. attorneys last year.

Monica Goodling, who also was White House liaison for the agency, testified she had no significant role in determining what names were to go on the list, which other Justice officials have said was compiled by then-Justice Department Chief of Staff Staff Kyle Sampson, who resigned in March.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales gave Goodling and Sampson wide authority over hiring and firing of political appointees in a March 2006 order. "I was responsible more for what happened after the plan was implemented rather than maybe the plan itself," Goodling testified. "My role was really to help ensure that once we had a vacancy, that we were carrying out the process of interviewing candidates and doing the paperwork that's necessary to make sure that we have a nomination eventually."

And she told committee Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., "I was not the primary White House contact for purposes of the development or approval of the U.S. attorney replacement plan." (Posted 12:46 p.m.)

Military works to determine ID of man thought to be one of three missing U.S. soldiers in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- The U.S. military says it's possible that the body of a man dragged from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad could be one of the soldiers thought to have been kidnapped earlier this month.

But the military officials haven't yet identified the corpse -- disfigured and bloated after it was retrieved -- and one military official said it may have to be sent to Dover Air Force Base in the United States to determine identity.

Police pulled the body of a man who appeared to be "Western" dressed in what appeared to be an American military uniform from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad Wednesday, an official with Iraq's Interior Ministry told CNN.

According to the official, authorities in Mussayib were notified by Iraqi civilians who saw a body floating down the Euphrates. Witnesses told police the man looked "Western." (Posted 12:02 p.m.)

Paulson cites agreement on 'wide variety of next steps' in China talks

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The United States and China agreed during the past two days of talks "on a wide variety of next steps, including items in financial services, energy and the environment, and civil aviation," Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Wednesday in prepared remarks to be delivered on the second and final day of U.S.-China economic talks.

"The dialogue will continue; our cooperative spirit will continue as well," he said, adding that the next meeting will focus "on capturing the benefits and managing the challenges of global economic integration."

He said the two countries had come together "to discuss our shared economic interests with mutual respect. We agree on many issues. We agree that it is vital to the prosperity of both our nations that China rebalance its economic growth, encourage consumption and spread development more broadly among its people."

The second round of the U.S.-China Strategic Economic Dialogue opened Tuesday, with Paulson leading the U.S. delegation. (Posted 11:14 p.m.)

Assured of immunity, ex-Gonzales counsel begins House testimony

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee assured Monica Goodling, former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, of immunity from potential prosecution Wednesday before she began her testimony on last year's firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Before receiving the guarantee from Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Goodling -- who was the Justice Department's liaison to the White House -- refused to speak before the committee, citing the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects Americans from self-incrimination.

The immunity was provided by a federal judge in Washington, and a copy was provided to Goodling after she took the Fifth.

Conyers stressed that giving Goodling immunity did not mean she was guilty of any wrongdoing.

He informed Goodling that information she provides the committee cannot be used against her in any criminal proceeding, so long as she is truthful. He also told her she could consult at any time with her lawyer. (Posted 10:47 a.m.)

ID of body found in Iraq may take some time, official says

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Maj. Gen. William Caldwell on Wednesday said authorities are attempting to determine the identity of a body believed to be one of the three missing U.S. soldiers.

Another U.S. military official said it is "highly likely" the body may have to be shipped to the United States to determine the identification.

Caldwell said police in Iraq found the body and turned it over to the U.S. military, which is working to determine his identity.

Families will be notified of the military's identity before media are alerted, he said. (Posted 10:35 a.m.)

4th Iranian-American detained in Tehran

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Iran has detained a fourth person of dual Iranian and American citizenship in recent days, his colleagues and family told CNN Wednesday.

Kian Tajbakhsh, an independent consultant and urban planner, was arrested six days ago in Tehran along with his wife, who is pregnant, according to Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment. His wife was kept overnight and released, but Kian Tajbakhsh is still being interrogated, Sadjadpour told CNN.

Tajbakhsh works with George Soros' Open Society Institute, which confirmed his detention as well.

A network of family friends is currently developing a strategy to get him released by reaching out to Iranian officials and launching a public campaign, a close family friend said. --From CNN State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 10:12 a.m.)

6 killed, 23 held in Iraq raids targeting senior leaders of al Qaeda suicide attack cell

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces on Wednesday killed six militants in raids across Iraq that targeted senior leaders of an al Qaeda suicide attack cell, the U.S. military said.

The forces detained 23 militants in the operations, which took place southeast of Baghdad, in Arab Jabour south of the capital, northwest of Taji north of the capital, in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, and near Karma and in Falluja in Anbar province.

"We continue to disrupt the leadership of the al Qaeda in Iraq organization and its affiliates," Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, U.S. military spokesman, said in a news release. "Step by step, we work to keep these terrorists from launching brutal attacks on the Iraqi people." (Posted 9:48 a.m.)

Iraq, U.S. mark first anniversary of al-Maliki government

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq are marking the first anniversary of Iraq's democratically elected government, an administration that has endured brutal violence and raging instability in Baghdad and across the country.

Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said bluntly Tuesday that the year has been a test for what has been called a national unity government, and the country has been at "a crossroads" -- "Iraq would either remain united holding onto its social roots or descend into a sectarian war; one of the dirtiest wars in history."

Ambassador Ryan Crocker issued a prepared statement about the "important milestone" on Wednesday with optimistic rhetoric. "The first anniversary of democratic government in Iraq is a victory for the people of Iraq," Crocker said. "They have selected their leaders, and they now have the right of every citizen in a democratic society."

Since last May, Al-Maliki's government -- which has been much criticized for failing to control sectarian violence and pass key legislation -- has overseen a society in chaos, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing their homes. (Posted 9:08 a.m.)

Israeli army: Israel enters Khan Younis in Gaza to 'prevent terror'

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli military forces "briefly" penetrated deep into the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis early Wednesday to conduct an operation "to prevent terror activity," an army spokesman told CNN.

During the operation several people were detained temporarily, he said. According to Palestinian security sources, seven farmers were arrested but later released.

Sources close to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told CNN that a meeting between Abbas, the leader of Fatah, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who heads Hamas, was under way Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting may smooth over tensions created in recent weeks by the infighting between the rival factions. (Posted 8:05 a.m.)

U.S. military: Iraqi soldier kidnapped by Shiite militia is freed

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- U.S. and Iraqi troops freed an Iraqi soldier kidnapped last week by a Shiite militia in Baghdad, the U.S. military reported on Wednesday.

The Iraqi soldier had been abducted by a cell of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army militia on Thursday in the Shurta neighborhood in the southwest and was being held in the Rashid district of Baghdad in the south.

The soldier was unharmed. (Posted 7:38 a.m.)

Commander says ID not yet made of male thought to be 1 of 3 missing soldiers

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Maj. Gen. William Caldwell on Wednesday said authorities are attempting to identify a body believed to be one of the three missing U.S. soldiers, but an identification has not yet been made.

He said police in Iraq found the body of a man they thought was one of the missing. He said the military has received the body and is working diligently to determine his identity.

Families will be notified of the military's identity before media are alerted, he said.

Police pulled the body of a "Western"-looking man dressed in what appeared to be an American military uniform from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad Wednesday and handed it over to the U.S. military, an official with Iraq's Interior Ministry told CNN.

He is thought to have been one of the team attacked in Mahmoudiya on May 12. Four U.S. soldiers and an Iraqi soldiers were killed, and three others were thought to be kidnapped. A military representative is en route to Iskandariya to get a look at the body. (Posted 7:37 a.m.)

Suicide bomber was behind Ankara shopping district blast, governor says

(CNN) -- A suicide bomber was behind the rush-hour blast that tore through an Ankara shopping district Tuesday, killing at least five people and wounding more than 60, the governor of Ankara said Wednesday.

Gov. Kamal Onal identified the attacker as Guven Akkus, adding that Akkus had two criminal records from previous incidents.

The "act of terror," Onal said, was the work of the radical, separatist Kurdistan Workers Party -- known by its acronym PKK. Its fighters have been staging attacks against Turkey in the country's southeast and from the Kurdish region of neighboring Iraq.

The incident occurred in a busy shopping area of the city -- Ulus -- during an international defense fair, where companies show their wares to militaries. (Posted 7:14 a.m.)

22 killed, 40 wounded in Diyala suicide bombing

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A suicide bomber walked into a cafe in a Diyala province town on Wednesday and detonated his explosives, killing at least 22 people and wounding 40, an Iraq Interior Ministry official said.

The incident occurred in Mandali, a Shiite Kurdish town near the Iranian border. Diyala is north and east of Baghdad. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq (Posted 7:13 a.m.)

4 dead, 18 wounded in Baghdad fighting

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraqi soldiers and gunmen exchanged fire on Wednesday in the Sinak commercial district in central Baghdad, a 30-minute clash that left four people killed and 18 others wounded.

An Iraq Interior Ministry official said the incident occurred around 10:30 a.m. Most of the casualties were civilians. (Posted 7:13 a.m.)

In Baghdad's Sadr City, 2 militants killed, 19 arrested, Iranian money and bomb-making material seized

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Coalition forces raided a cell in the Shiite-dominated Baghdad neighborhood of Sadr City on Wednesday, killing two militants, detaining 19, and seizing "a cache of Iranian money and bomb-making materials."

The U.S. military announced the raid in an early Wednesday news release. It said that it was targeting a person "suspected of facilitating weapons shipments from Iran to secret cell terrorist elements in Baghdad, Basra and Maysan province." Basra and Maysan are Shiite locations in southern Iraq.

For months, the U.S. military has said that militants in Iraq have been getting armor-piercing bombs called explosively-formed penetrators that have their origins in the Shiite nation of Iran. (Posted 7:12 a.m.)

Police in Iraq pull out body out of Euphrates apparently clad in military garb as search for missing U.S. soldiers continue

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Police in Iraq pulled the body of a "Western"-looking man dressed in what appeared to be an American military uniform from the Euphrates River south of Baghdad Wednesday and handed it over to the U.S. military, an official with Iraq's Interior Ministry told CNN.

Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver declined to comment Wednesday on media reports that the body was one of the three soldiers, but a U.S. military source in Iraq told CNN the body recovered was wearing U.S. military-issued pants.

The body is now in Iskandariya, in Babil province, and a U.S. military spokesperson said a U.S. military representative is headed to the location to verify whether the corpse is one of the three missing U.S. soldiers missing since a May 12 attack on a U.S. military observation post near Mahmoudiya in an area known as the Triangle of Death. --From CNN's Mohammed Tawfeeq and Arwa Damon (Posted 7:11 a.m.)

NATO soldier killed in suicide attack in northern Afghan

(CNN) -- A NATO soldier was killed and four were wounded in a suicide bomb attack in northern Afghanistan Wednesday, a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said.

NATO did not immediately release the nationalities of the soldiers involved or the exact location of the attack, which NATO spokeswoman Lt. Col. Angela Billings called "unprovoked and cowardly."

It was the second suicide bomb attack launched in northern Afghanistan in less than a week. (Posted 7:10 a.m.)

In 24-hour period at least 9 U.S. troops die in Iraq

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- At least nine U.S. servicemembers died in violence across Iraq Tuesday and six were wounded, U.S. military statements released Wednesday said.

Two U.S. Marines with Multi National Force-West were killed during combat in Anbar province.

Three Multi National Division-Center Soldiers were killed and two were wounded in action when their patrol was struck by multiple roadside bombs. An interpreter was also wounded in the attack.

A Multi National Division-Baghdad soldier was killed when his patrol was hit with small arms fire in western Baghdad.

Also in the Iraqi capital, a Task Force Marne soldier was killed and another wounded when they were hit by a roadside bomb in southwestern Iraq.

Two Task Force Lightning soldiers were killed and three others were wounded in Baghdad Province, Tuesday when an explosion occurred near their vehicle.

During May, 81 U.S. military personnel have died, bringing the total since the war began to 3,432. (Posted 6:05 a.m.)

NATO airstrike targets Taliban leaders in southern

(CNN) -- NATO forces launched a precision airstrike on Taliban leaders gathered for a meeting in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province Tuesday, a statement from NATO's International Security Assistance Forces said Wednesday.

"Assessments indicate all of those who died were enemy insurgents," the statement said, adding there were no civilians in the blast area.

No casualty figures were provided by NATO. (Posted 6:05 a.m.)

U.S. sends 9 warships in the Persian Gulf for war games

ABOARD USS JOHN C. STENNIS (CNN) -- In one of the largest, most visible war games America has staged in the Persian Gulf since the start of the Iraq war, two U.S. aircraft carriers and seven other battleships cruised into Iranian waters Wednesday.

The admiral leading the fleet told CNN he hopes Iran doesn't get the wrong idea about America's intentions.

"I hope they don't get a message -- a wrong message -- and we certainly don't want any miscalculation on anybody's part on what we are doing," Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn told CNN's Caroline Faraj on Tuesday.

The navy's show of force off the coast of Iran is meant to "set the conditions for stability and security in the region and to keep the sea links of communications open for the free flow of commerce," Quinn said. --From CNN's Caroline Faraj (Posted 5:25 a.m)

Former Rove aide wants immunity to testify about Abramoff contacts

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Susan Ralston, a former top assistant to President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, is willing to tell Congress what she knows about contacts between White House officials and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- but only if she's granted immunity from prosecution, her lawyer has told congressional investigators.

During a May 10 deposition with Ralston, her attorney, Bradford Berenson, told investigators for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she "has material, useful information" about contacts between Abramoff and his associates and White House officials, according to a memo sent to committee members Tuesday by the committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

In his memo, Waxman told his colleagues that before considering Ralston's immunity request, "the committee should seek to obtain information about the relationship between Mr. Abramoff and the White House from other sources." (Posted 10:52 p.m.)

Refugees stream from refugee camp after days of fighting

BEIRUT, Lebanon (CNN) -- Battered by days of fighting between militants and the Lebanese army, a steady stream of Palestinians has fled the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp near Tripoli, Palestinian and Red Crescent officials said.

"Thousands of Palestinian refugees are fleeing their homes in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp because they are scared and traumatized and don't have any food or running water or electricity or food supplies," Bilal Aslan, who belongs to the Fatah movement of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told CNN Wednesday.

The Red Crescent said on Tuesday that some 2,000 Palestinians had fled the camp. The exodus began as night fell Tuesday, amid a lull in clashes between militants of the Fatah al-Islam group and the Lebanese army.

"They are leaving for nearby Palestinian refugee camps and staying in public schools, mosques and with other relatives," Aslan said. (Posted 9:49 a.m.)



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