World powers to discuss Iran sanctions

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LONDON (Reuters) – The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany will discuss imposing a third round of sanctions on Iran because of its nuclear program on Friday.

Iran has refused to stop enriching uranium and the West fears it is bent on producing atomic bombs, which Tehran denies.

The United States, which will be represented by undersecretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns, says it wants to make progress in outlining the sanctions resolution and ministers can then decide on its timing.

Burns said he hoped Russia and China would attend the London meeting with a “serious demeanor”. He said the two countries, major trading partners with Iran, had effectively blocked moves towards a third sanctions resolution for six months.

The United States imposed economic sanctions last week and has not ruled out military action against Iran. Russia believes dialogue rather than more punishment is the way forward while China reacted to the American move by saying it was opposed to imposing sanctions “too rashly”.

Speaking to reporters on Friday on her way to Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington had had some “tactical” differences with China and Russia about the timing and the “depth or breadth” of a Security Council resolution.

“But the Russians — when I talked to (Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov yesterday — he said they were prepared to come and work on the text as we agreed when we were together last and we will just have to see how those discussions go,” she said.

The major powers agreed in late September to delay a vote on tougher sanctions until late November at the earliest after it had received reports by the U.N. nuclear watchdog and a European Union negotiator.

After four days of talks with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Tehran meant to help clear up suspicions about Iran’s atomic activities, both sides expressed satisfaction, Iran’s state broadcaster reported on Thursday.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, is due to report in mid-November about whether Iran has answered questions about its past secret nuclear activity.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said this week Tehran would not retreat in the dispute and dismissed U.S. offers of broader negotiations if Iran suspended its most sensitive atomic work.

Iran says its program is peaceful and aimed at generating electricity so that it can export more oil and gas.

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Democrats worry Bush setting up war with Iran

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some Democratic presidential candidates worried on Thursday the White House had begun a march to war by declaring Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorism supporter while a top Republican said “bombardment” of Iran should be an option.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney took a hard-line stance against Iran after the U.S. State Department imposed sanctions on the Revolutionary Guard in a bid to pressure Tehran to stop enriching uranium.

Washington also accuses Iran of supplying explosive devices to Iraqi militants that are being used to kill U.S. and Iraqi troops.

Romney, trying to win his party’s presidential nomination for the November 2008 election, said in New Hampshire the military option must be on the table in the event sanctions do not work.

“I really can’t lay out exactly how that would be done, but we have a number of options from blockade to bombardment of some kind, and that’s something we very much have to keep on the table, and if you will, ready ourselves to be able to take because frankly it’s unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons,” Romney said.

Democrats, meanwhile, were afraid they were hearing a drumbeat for war against Iran, much as occurred in the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003.

“I am deeply concerned that once again the president is opting for military action as a first resort,” said Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd, a long-shot Democratic presidential candidate.

Dodd and others in the battle for the party’s presidential nomination took a shot at the Democratic front-runner, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, for voting in favor of a Senate resolution that recommended the State Department label Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization.

“Instead of blocking George Bush’s new march to war, Sen. Clinton and others are enabling him once again,” said one candidate, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.

Another Democratic candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, said that unfortunately, the Senate measure “made the case for President Bush that we need to use our military presence in Iraq to counter Iran — a case that has nothing to do with sanctioning the Revolutionary Guard.”

Clinton, however, strongly defended her vote in favor of the Senate resolution, said she supported the sanctions announced by the State Department, and urged the Bush administration to engage in “robust diplomacy” with Iran.

“We must work to check Iran’s nuclear ambitions and its support of terrorism, and the sanctions announced today strengthen America’s diplomatic hand in that regard,” she said in a statement.

Clinton, trying to prevent the issue from becoming a point of contention with liberal Democrats concerned she would lead the United States into another war, has been seeking to assure Democrats her vote should not be seen as giving Bush authority for war on Iran.

“I believe that a policy of diplomacy backed by economic pressure is the best way to check Iran’s efforts to acquire a nuclear weapons program and stop its support of terrorism, and the best way to avert a war,” she said.

Clinton is still taking heat from anti-war liberals for her 2002 vote in favor of a Senate measure that authorized the use of force against Iraq.


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Oct. 23: President Bush promises federal funds to help victims of California’s devastating wildfires.

WASHINGTON – President Bush mobilized federal emergency assistance Tuesday on behalf of Southern California officials struggling with devastating wildfires, and scheduled a visit to the stricken region for Thursday.

β€œThe president wants to travel to California to witness firsthand what the people there are going through with these wildfires,” White House press secretary Dana Perino said. β€œHe wants to ensure that the state and local governments are getting what they need from the federal government and he wants to make sure to deliver a message in person to the victims that he has them in his thoughts and prayers.”

Bush is canceling previously scheduled events in St. Louis to make the trip, but Vice President Dick Cheney will stand in for him to deliver remarks on the budget and headline a fundraiser for the national Republican Party.


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Bush asks for $46 billion more for wars

WASHINGTON – President Bush asked Congress for $46 billion more to bankroll wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and said he wants the money approved by Christmas. The fighting in Iraq, in its fifth year, already has cost more than $455 billion.

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Czech Govt. supports US missile defense

PRAGUE, Czech Republic – The Czech government firmly favors hosting a U.S. missile defense site but believes it will take longer to negotiate a deal than U.S. officials had hoped, a senior Czech official said Tuesday.

Tomas Pojar, deputy minister of foreign affairs, told U.S. reporters traveling with Defense Secretary Robert Gates that his government’s support is based not only on a shared worry about future missile threats but also a “moral, historical” sense of appreciation for American support for Czech democracy.

He also stressed that Prague does not intend to rush a deal, and he predicted that it will be difficult to win approval in parliament.

“I think it’s going to take a few more months” than the U.S. timetable, which calls for completing negotiations by the end of the year and winning parliamentary approval next spring, Pojar said in an interview over breakfast at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs while Gates was meeting with President Vaclav Klaus.

Pojar said he takes little stock in public opinion polls that show a majority of Czechs oppose having a U.S. missile defense site on their territory.

Gates later held talks with Defense Minister Vlasta Parkanova and was scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek as well as with members of parliament with a range of views on missile defense.

The Pentagon wants to install 10 interceptor rockets in Poland which, when linked to a proposed tracking radar in the Czech Republic and to other elements of the existing U.S. missile defense system based in the United States, could defend all of Europe against a long-range missile fired from the Middle East.
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Wildfires force mass evacuations

SAN DIEGO – The wind-fueled fires that have burned more than 700 homes and chased away 265,000 residents may be only the start of the destruction in Southern California, where Tuesday’s forecast called for hotter temperatures and more explosive gusts.

The blazes bedeviled firefighters as walls of flame whipped from mountain passes to the edges of the state’s celebrated coastline, spreading so quickly that even hotels serving as temporary shelters for evacuees had to be evacuated.

Wanda Tomkinson, 79, fled the Doubletree hotel in Del Mar with her husband and their Boston Terrier after employees called each room to tell customers they had to leave. The couple, carrying medication, clothes, tax records and a dog bowl, said they were relying on a family friend to take them in.

If not, Tomkinson added, “the Lord’ll take care of us.”

With some 245,957 acres, or 384 square miles, ablaze, President Bush declared a federal emergency for seven Southern California counties, a move that will speed disaster-relief efforts.

The wildfires claimed one life, in San Diego County, and injured 42. At least 16 of the injured were firefighters.

Fire crews and fleeing residents described desperate conditions that were sure to get worse. Temperatures across Southern California were about 10 degrees above average and were expected to approach 100 degrees Tuesday in Orange and San Diego counties.

“We are getting very strong northeast winds. They are very erratic, causing us to modify our procedures,” said Capt. Don Camp, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fires were exploding and shooting embers in all directions, preventing crews from forming traditional fire lines and severely limiting aerial bombardment, he said.

“Lifesaving is our priority. Getting people out from in front of the fire β€” those have been our priorities,” Camp said.

Thousands of residents sought shelter at fairgrounds, schools and community centers. The largest gathering was at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, where evacuees anxiously watched the stadium’s television sets, hoping for a glimpse of their neighborhood on the local news.

San Diego County was ablaze from its rural north to its border region with Mexico, where the wildfires that started Sunday claimed their only fatality to date: Thomas Varshock, 52, of Tecate, a town on the U.S. side of the border southeast of San Diego. His body was found Sunday afternoon, the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office said, although no other details were released.

At least 250,000 residents in San Diego County alone were ordered to evacuate. Public schools were closed, as were campuses at the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University.

In the northern part of the county, 500 homes and 100 businesses had been destroyed as a wildfire exploded to 145,000 acres and marched toward the Pacific Coast enclave of Del Mar, forcing a partial evacuation.

The scope of the infernos was immense and was reminiscent of the blazes that tore through Southern California four years ago this month, killing 22 and destroying 3,640 homes.

The fires that started Sunday were whipped by ferocious winds, generating walls of flame that bore down on housing developments in a wide swath.

Homes burned from the beaches of Malibu to the mountain retreats east of Los Angeles and south through Orange and San Diego counties to Mexico.

East of Los Angeles, a two-front fire destroyed at least 160 homes in the Lake Arrowhead area, the same mountain resort community where hundreds of homes were lost four years earlier.

As the fires spread, most out of control, smaller blazes were merging into larger, more fearsome ones. Evacuations were being announced in one community after another as firefighters found themselves overwhelmed by gale-force Santa Ana winds, some gusting to 70 mph.

The winds β€” which sweep through Southern California’s canyons in fall and winter β€” are stronger than normal, turning already parched scrubland into tinder.

The Department of Defense agreed to send six Air Force and Air National Guard water- or retardant-dropping planes Tuesday to aide the massive firefighting effort after a request by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Touring an evacuee camp at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the governor pledged to do everything in his power to assist the firefighting effort and help those who have lost their homes.

“I will be relentless all the way through this,” Schwarzenegger said.

Source: Yahoo!

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