BAGHDAD

Defense Secretary Gates says he sees progress in Iraq

Hard choices face Iraq’s political leaders on how to stabilize the country despite promising new signs of progress toward reconciliation, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said yesterday.

“They seem to have become energized over the last few weeks,” Gates said. The Pentagon chief told reporters who traveled with him from a conference in Germany that he wants to “see what the prospects are for further success in the next couple of months.”

In an interview on the trip to Iraq, Gates cited the recent passage of an amnesty law as an example of political progress. He said he would ask Iraqi leaders to assess the prospects for other important steps such as passing a law that would spell out power-sharing between the provinces and the national government.

Army sniper gets 10 years for planting evidence on civilian

A U.S. Army sniper convicted of killing an unarmed Iraqi civilian and planting evidence on his body was sentenced yesterday to 10 years in prison.

Sgt. Evan Vela faced a possible life sentence. Earlier Sunday, jurors found him guilty of murder without premeditation in the May 11 killing of an Iraqi man south of Baghdad.

Vela was also sentenced to forfeit all pay and allowances, and will receive a dishonorable discharge. His case is automatically referred to a military appeals court.

WASHINGTON

Bush: McCain must work harder for conservative vote

John McCain is a “true conservative,” President Bush says, although the likely Republican presidential nominee may have to work harder to convince other conservatives that he is one of their own.

McCain “is very strong on national defense,” Bush said in an interview taped for airing on “Fox News Sunday.” ”He is tough fiscally. He believes the tax cuts ought to be permanent. He is pro-life. His principles are sound and solid as far as I’m concerned.”

But when asked about criticism of McCain by conservative commentators Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, the president said, “I think that if John is the nominee, he has got some convincing to do to convince people that he is a solid conservative and I’ll be glad to help him if he is the nominee.”

DETROIT

Report: Health care projects aiding state’s economy

Efforts by Michigan health care systems to build new hospitals and renovate old ones are providing a boost to the state’s construction industry, which has been hit by a downturn in the housing market.

Thirteen of the largest projects are pumping at least $2.2 billion into their communities, the Detroit Free Press reported yesterday. And for patients, the projects are offering things like improved technology and more private rooms.

“The current construction boom in health care preserves and maintains the existing workforce,” said David Reese, senior vice president of Skanska AB, a Stockholm, Sweden-based company with a Michigan headquarters in Southfield.

At their peak, health care building projects may involve as many as 300 workers at a construction site, in addition the several dozen or more the construction company employs, according to industry leaders.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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