BAGHDAD, Iraq

U.S., Iraqi forces aim to secure Mosul

U.S. and Iraqi troops recaptured police stations and secured bridges in the northern city of Mosul yesterday in an offensive aimed at pushing out fighters supporting the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah.

Troops met “very little resistance” in securing several of the dozen or so police stations that had been captured by insurgents, the U.S. military command said. Nineveh province’s deputy governor said militants blew up the Zuhour police station ahead of the U.S. advance, but the U.S military denied any stations were destroyed.

Loud explosions and gunfire could be heard as U.S. warplanes and helicopters circled over Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city with more than 1 million residents.

Mortar shells hit two areas near the main government building in the city center, killing three civilians and wounding 25, hospital officials said. One U.S. soldier was wounded when a car bomb exploded near a U.S. convoy in western Mosul, the military said.

 

WASHINGTON

Wholesale prices rise by record amounts

Wholesale prices — catapulted by more expensive energy and food — soared last month by the largest amount in more than 14 years. With inflation at the producer level accelerating sharply after months of good behavior, chances are rising the Federal Reserve will boost interest rates for a fifth time this year on Dec. 14.

The Producer Price Index, which measures the costs of goods before they reach store shelves, jumped by 1.7 percent in October, compared with a tiny 0.1 percent in September, the Labor Department reported yesterday. The increase was the largest since January 1990. Wholesale gasoline and home heating oil prices were up by 17 percent for the month.

“A period of pretty tranquil inflation has passed — with a vengeance,” said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.

Wanting to make sure inflation doesn’t become a threat, Chairman Alan Greenspan and his Federal Reserve colleagues embarked on a campaign in June to raise short-term interest rates from what had been extraordinarily low levels to more normal ones.

 

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

Abbas calls for cease-fire during campaigns

The interim Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has asked Palestinian militants to halt violence during the campaign for the Jan. 9 presidential elections, a participant in truce talks said yesterday.

Abbas is trying to work out a deal with rival Palestinian groups on a cease-fire and possible power-sharing. He held a joint meeting with representatives of 13 factions Monday and was holding separate talks with them yesterday, including with Hamas, the main opposition group and the main militant group carrying out anti-Israel attacks.

Ziad Abu Amr, a lawmaker participating in the talks, said Hamas and Islamic Jihad have asked Abbas to establish a “unified leadership,” an umbrella group that would give the militants a role in decisions, at least until elections.

 

LONDON

British gov’t proposes public smoking ban

Britain’s government yesterday proposed banning smoking in most public places, setting off debate over what one smoker decried as the brainchild of a busybody “nanny state.” The ban, which would be phased in over four years, would affect offices, restaurants and any pub or bar that serves food.

The 20 percent of bars and pubs that serve no food would be free to restrict smoking if they choose, Health Secretary John Reid told the House of Commons. “This is a sensible solution, I believe, which balances the protection of the majority with the personal freedom of the minority in England,” Reid said, outlining the legislation he envisions. The proposal must be approved by Parliament.

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