U.S. military chief favors closing of Guantanamo Bay

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba

The chief of the U.S. military said yesterday he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been “pretty damaging” to the image of the United States.

“I’d like to see it shut down,” Adm. Mike Mullen said in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.

His visit came two days after the sixth anniversary of the prison’s opening in January 2002. He stressed that a closure decision was not his to make and that he understands there are numerous complex legal questions the administration believes would have to be settled first, such as where to move prisoners.

JACKSONVILLE, N.C.

Marine suspected of murder headed south, witnesses say

The nationwide manhunt for a Marine wanted in the brutal slaying of a 20-year-old pregnant colleague who had accused him of rape focused yesterday on Louisiana and Texas, after he was apparently seen at a bus station.

Witnesses said they saw Marine Cpl. Cesar Armando Laurean was seen at a Shreveport, La., station Saturday night, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown said. The bus Laurean was riding was headed to Texas, but police don’t know if he continued on that route, he said.

Brown cautioned late Sunday that his detectives were still working to confirm the sightings, backing away from earlier assurances that the witness accounts were genuine.

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates

Bush asks allies to confront Iran before ‘it is too late’

President Bush gently nudged authoritarian Arab allies yesterday to satisfy frustrated desires for democracy in the Mideast and saved his harshest criticism for Iran, branding it “the world’s leading state-sponsor of terror.”

Speaking in this Persian Gulf country, about 150 miles from the shores of Iran, Bush said Tehran threatens nations everywhere and that the United States was “rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late.”

The warning about Iran was much tougher than Bush’s admonition about spreading democracy in the Middle East, which had been billed as the central theme of his speech.

NEW YORK

Clinton questions Obama’s reasoning for King comments

Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton suggested yesterday that Barack Obama’s campaign had injected racial tension into the presidential contest, saying he had distorted for political gain her comments about Martin Luther King’s role in the civil rights movement.

“This is an unfortunate story line the Obama campaign has pushed very successfully,” the former first lady said in a spirited appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I don’t think this campaign is about gender, and I sure hope it’s not about race.”

Clinton taped the show before appearances in South Carolina, whose Jan. 26 primary will be the first to include a significant representation of black voters. Blacks were 50 percent of primary voters in the state in 2004 and the number is expected to swell this time.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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