Baghdad

Iraqi PM drops protection for Sadr’s militia

Iraq’s prime minister has dropped his protection of an anti-American cleric’s Shiite militia after U.S. intelligence convinced him the group was infiltrated by death squads, two officials said yesterday.

In a desperate bid to fend off an all-out American offensive, the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr last Friday ordered the 30 lawmakers and six Cabinet ministers under his control to end their nearly two-month boycott of the government. They were back at their jobs yesterday.

Al-Sadr had already ordered his militia fighters not to display their weapons. They have not, however, ceded control of the formerly mixed neighborhoods they have captured, killing Sunnis or forcing them to abandon their homes and businesses.

Washington

N.M. governor to explore White House run

Democrat Bill Richardson took the first step yesterday toward a bid to become the first Hispanic president, saying the country needs his extensive experience as a governor, cabinet secretary and ambassador.

The 59-year-old New Mexico governor announced in a video posted on his Web site that he would set up an exploratory committee that will allow him to begin raising money and assembling his campaign organization.

His candidacy would make history as the field of Democratic candidates would be the most diverse ever. On Saturday, New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said she wanted to be the first female president. Last week, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois jumped in, a formidable contender who would be the first black commander in chief.

Caracas, Venezuela

Chavez to U.S.: ‘Go to hell, gringos!’

President Hugo Chavez told U.S. officials to “Go to hell!” on his weekly radio and TV show yesterday for what he called unacceptable meddling after Washington raised concerns about a measure to grant Venezuela’s fiery leftist leader broad lawmaking powers.

The National Assembly, which is controlled by the president’s political allies, is expected to give final approval this week to what it calls the “enabling law,” which would give Chavez the authority to pass a series of laws by decree during an 18-month period.

On Friday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey said Chavez’s plans under the law “have caused us some concern.”

Chavez rejected Casey’s statement in his broadcast, saying: “Go to hell, gringos! Go home!”

Damascus, Syria

Abbas, Hamas chief fail to agree on unity government

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the exiled chief of the rival Hamas faction failed yesterday night to resolve their differences over forming a unity government, dashing hopes for a quick end to deadly clashes between their supporters.

But Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in a statement that they “achieved major progress” during the meeting – their first since July 2005 – and hoped to resume talks within two weeks.

Notable Number

18

Degrees, in Fahrenheit, that temperatures are projected to rise during this century, according to an Oxford University study. This temperature change would result in an Alaskan climate roughly equivalent to the current British climate.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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