House to confront president on Iraq next week

Democratic critics of the Iraq war seized the offensive at both ends of the Capitol yesterday, disclosing plans for a symbolic rejection by the House of President Bush’s decision to deploy additional troops and filing legislation in the Senate to require withdrawal of U.S. military personnel.

“We’re going to stand by our soldiers, but we’re not going to stand by a failed policy that exposes more of our soldiers to death and suffering,” said Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois, rebutting charges that the war’s critics may be undermining the morale or even the safety of U.S. forces.

Democrats pressured Bush to change course as Defense Secretary Robert Gates told lawmakers that U.S. forces might be able to start leaving Iraq before the end of the year – if daunting conditions including subdued violence and political reconciliation are met.

Romney to launch ’08 campaign in Dearborn

Republican Mitt Romney will formally announce his candidacy for president next week in Michigan, his native state and an important early test for the GOP nomination, campaign aides said yesterday.

The former one-term Massachusetts governor will make his announcement Feb. 13, and then will visit Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina – the first states to hold 2008 contests.

In Dearborn, Romney will hold what amounts to a made-for-TV coming out event at the Henry Ford Museum in the state where he was born. He has a base of support in the battleground state and deep roots. His father, George Romney, was governor in the 1960s, and served as chief executive of the American Motors Corp.

He will return to Boston two days later, where he will hold what his campaign is calling “a unity event” with supporters, aides said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the plans were not public.

Orlando, Fla.

Astronaut in love triangle charged with murder

A NASA astronaut accused of trying to kidnap a romantic rival for a space shuttle pilot’s affections was charged with attempted first-degree murder yesterday and released from jail after posting $25,000 bail.

“The intent was there to do serious bodily injury or death,” said Orlando Police Sgt. Barb Jones, referring to a new steel mallet, knife, rubber tubing and large garbage bags that police found in Lisa Marie Nowak’s possession.

Nowak, a 43-year-old Navy captain and married mother of three, had already been charged with attempted kidnapping, attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Palestinian leaders set for talks

Palestinian factions on the brink of civil war gathered yesterday in Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in a last-ditch effort to end their bloody conflict. The Saudi-led push is key to any future peace talks with Israel – and to Arab efforts to blunt Iran’s growing power.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Khaled Mashaal, leader of the militant Hamas movement, flew to the Saudi city of Jiddah before heading to Mecca to meet their host, King Abdullah, ahead of the start of talks yesterday.

The talks are open-ended, a reflection of Saudi Arabia’s determination to keep them going until the Palestinians reach a deal for power-sharing in a new coalition government.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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