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Iraqi clerics promote peace, but suicide attacks continue

By wire services
Published September 17, 2005

BAGHDAD - A leading Sunni cleric called for religious and ethnic groups to take a stand against violence as Iraq endured a third consecutive day of sectarian killings - the worst a suicide car bombing at a Shiite mosque that killed at least 12 worshipers as they left Friday prayers.

The bombing in Tuz Khormato, where a Saudi man was later arrested wearing a bomb belt on his way to a second mosque, was the latest suicide attack following al-Qaida in Iraq's declaration of war on Iraq's Shiite Muslims.

Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror group said it was taking revenge for a joint Iraqi-U.S. offensive against its stronghold in Tal Afar, near the Syrian border.

With more than 20 people killed Friday, the death toll over the past three days surpassed 200, with more than 600 wounded.

Sheik Mahmud al-Sumaidaei, a leading Sunni cleric whose group is linked to the country's insurgency, criticized militants for targeting civilians. He called for Iraq's religious and ethnic groups to take a stand against further bloodshed.

American forces raiding insurgent strongholds in the Euphrates River valley, northwest of Baghdad, called in airstrikes on militant positions in a stepped-up effort to retake Anbar province.

A U.S. Marine was killed in the insurgent bastion of Ramadi, the provincial capital, the military said.

As Shiite and Sunni clerics condemned the rash of attacks, they also lashed out at the U.S.-backed Iraqi government and U.S. forces, holding them responsible for the recent violence because they were unable to improve security 21/2 years after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

China offers compromise for N. Korea talks

BEIJING - China proposed a compromise Friday in the U.S.-North Korean standoff on nuclear disarmament negotiations, suggesting that North Korea be accorded the right in principle to develop peaceful nuclear energy in the future, diplomats said.

The Chinese suggestion received a cool response from North Korea, which insisted on carrying out the civilian part of its nuclear development program without interruption.

China, as host and sponsor of the talks, called on diplomats from the other five countries - North and South Korea, Russia, Japan and the United States - to convene again today to discuss the new proposal.

Little was known about China's new suggestion. But Russia's chief delegate, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Alexeyev, described it as an attempt to bridge the U.S.-North Korean gap by mentioning a North Korean right to peaceful use of nuclear energy in the future, presumably meaning after North Korea's nuclear weapons program has been dismantled and it has rejoined the nonproliferation treaty and U.N. nuclear inspection regime.

"We think this new document is balanced in character, and it includes North Korea's right to peaceful atomic energy and the possibility, in the long term, of building a light-water nuclear reactor," Russian news agencies quoted him as saying.

Russia doesn't support sanctions against Iran

WASHINGTON - President Bush won no support from Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday in his bid to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council for possible sanctions and acknowledged he has not yet forged an international consensus on how to deal with Tehran's alleged nuclear program.

After a meeting at the White House, Bush and Putin emerged to reaffirm their friendship and emphasize that they both oppose Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

Bush administration officials had hoped to win enough support for a vote Monday by the International Atomic Energy Agency to send the Iran case to the Security Council. European powers support such a move after their own negotiations with Tehran failed to produce agreement. But like Putin, China's President Hu Jintao also declined to back such a move during a meeting with Bush in New York earlier this week, and without Russia and China, both veto-wielding members of the council, U.S. and European diplomats fear a referral vote might be meaningless.

Bush signaled that he might wait past Monday to seek such a referral in hopes of building more support.

Putin, whose government is helping Iran build a civilian nuclear plant, said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad assured him in a meeting Thursday in New York that Iran does not want nuclear weapons.

ELSEWHERE ...: An Iranian exile who opposes the Islamic regime said Friday that Iran's military is building secret tunnels around the country to conceal materials for a nuclear weapons program. Alireza Jafarzadeh, who helped expose key nuclear facilities in Iran in the past, told a news conference that some of the tunnels house secret "military-nuclear factories" while others are used for storage. He said his information was based on sources inside the country who have proved to be accurate in the past, though U.S. officials have judged some of his past assertions to be inaccurate. Jafarzadeh's information could not be independently confirmed. U.S. officials offered no immediate comment.

Elections ...

NEW ZEALAND: New Zealanders went to the polls today in an election that could redefine the country's policy on nuclear weapons and its relationship with the United States. Political analysts and pollsters consider the vote for Parliament's 120 seats too close to call.

AFGHANISTAN: Taliban rebels urged Afghans on Friday to boycott Sunday's legislative elections, which many hope will marginalize the insurgents, while a candidate was shot dead and four other people were killed in bombings near polling stations.

GERMANY: Undecided voters may tip Sunday's German election, a contest between competing visions over how to re-energize the stagnant economy and repair Berlin's battered ties with Washington. Polls suggest a coalition government is the likely outcome.

GREENLAND: Premier Hans Enoksen called early elections after Greenland's governing coalition collapsed after a scandal over the misuse of public funds forced two cabinet members to quit. The election of a new 31-member Parliament will be held Nov. 22, Enoksen said Thursday.

ETHIOPIA: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has expressed qualified support for Ethiopia's parliamentary elections but said it was up to the opposition to decide if they accepted the results. Opposition parties made strong gains in the June polls but continue to argue they were robbed of a victory by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front, which was officially declared the winner with 327 seats in the 547-seat Parliament.

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