- The Washington Times - Friday, November 7, 2008

DIPLOMACY

U.S. responds to Iraq on pact

BAGHDAD | The U.S. responded Thursday to Iraqi proposals for changes in the draft security pact that would keep American troops here for three more years, saying it now considers the text final and it is up to Iraq’s government to push the process to approval.

U.S. and Iraqi officials would not release details of Washington’s response, which was contained in a letter from President Bush to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

But a senior Iraqi official familiar with the negotiations said Washington accepted some proposals and rejected others, presumably an Iraqi demand for expanded legal authority over American troops and Defense Department contractors.

The official would not elaborate and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Iraqi lawmakers have said the demanded changes are essential to winning parliament’s approval before the Dec. 31 deadline, when the U.N. mandate for the U.S.-led coalition expires. Without an agreement or a new mandate, the United States would have to suspend all military operations in Iraq.

GUANTANAMO

Six Algerians deny link to al Qaeda

Seven years after their capture, six Algerian men denied Thursday they planned to fight with al Qaeda and asked to be released from prison in the first case of suspected terrorists challenging their detention at Guantanamo Bay.

The men, who were arrested in Bosnia in the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, are being held without charges as enemy combatants at the U.S. detention facility in Cuba.

The detainees last summer won the right to sue for their release in U.S. civilian courts after a Supreme Court case involving one suspect, humanitarian aid worker Lakhdar Boumediene.

During more than two hours of arguments in federal court in Washington, the Justice Department accused the Algerians of planning to travel to Afghanistan and join al Qaeda in its global jihad against the U.S. and its allies.

Lawyers for the Algerians said there is no evidence the men ever would have ended up on a battlefield or posed any threat against the U.S. Therefore, the lawyers said, the U.S. should not consider the men enemy combatants, as defined by the judge hearing the case, and must free them.

ENERGY

Expansion of nuclear dump wanted

The Energy Department will tell Congress in the coming weeks it should begin looking for a second permanent site to bury nuclear waste, or approve a large expansion of the proposed waste repository at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

Edward Sproat, head of the department’s civilian nuclear waste program, said Thursday the 77,000-ton limit Congress put on the capacity of the proposed Yucca waste dump will fall far short of what will be needed and has to be expanded, or another dump built elsewhere in the country.

The future of the Yucca Mountain project is anything but certain.

President-elect Barack Obama has said he doesn’t think the desert site 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas is suitable for keeping highly radioactive used reactor fuel up to a million years and thinks other options should be explored.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, has vowed to block the project.

WHITE HOUSE

Barney the dog bites reporter

Talk about a biting critique of the press.

It seems President Bush’s dog Barney wasn’t much in the mood for friendly attention during his walk outside the White House on Thursday.

So when Reuters reporter Jon Decker reached down to pet the Scottish terrier, the seemingly docile dog snapped at him and bit his right index finger.

Reporter April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks happened to capture the moment on video.

And, naturally, it soon wound up on YouTube. The video comes to an end with a freeze frame on Barney’s fangs.

Barney won’t have to worry about bothersome reporters much longer.

The Bush administration ends in 74 days, and the president is headed back to Texas.

Sally McDonough, a spokeswoman for first lady Laura Bush, said of Barney: “I think it was his way of saying he was done with the paparazzi.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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