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SAN JUAN — The U.S. government has a new battle in Vieques, the Puerto Rican island that was used as a Navy bombing range for decades.

An extensive cleanup of Vieques is under way, and the Navy says is close to finishing work on a former munitions disposal site on the island.

It would be a milestone for the cleanup, but the plan has sparked criticism.

The government proposes fencing off the 400-acre site as a nature reserve, without clearing about half the area of debris from years of detonating out-of-date munitions.

The Navy says it poses little danger and protects habitat.

Opponents say the Navy should clear the entire area. The plan is still under review. A public comment period ends Friday.

IRAQ

U.S. citizen sentenced to life for helping al Qaeda

BAGHDAD — An Iraqi court has sentenced an American citizen to life in prison on charges of assisting al Qaeda and financing terrorist activities in Iraq, according to a government statement released Thursday.

The Interior Ministry said Omar Rashad Khalil, 53, was recruited by al Qaeda in Iraq in 2005.

Khalil, an architectural engineer, is of Palestinian descent and entered the country in 2001, the ministry statement said.

The ministry released excerpts from a confession it said Khalil made in which he admitted to receiving money from a Syrian man in the United Arab Emirates to pay for terrorist attacks.

Khalil, who the ministry said also is known as Abu Mohammed, was sentenced by Baghdad’s central criminal court on Wednesday.

Iraqi government officials could not immediately be reached for more details.

UNITED KINGDOM

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