Bush aide cautions Obama about Iran
Stephen J. Hadley, President’s Bush’s national security adviser, on Wednesday warned President-elect Barack Obama away from a toothless approach to Iran, during a speech intended to present the full range of foreign-policy challenges awaiting the next administration.
“For the next administration, the biggest challenge in this region is Iran,” Mr. Hadley said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“Negotiations with Iran, as some have proposed, without leverage on Iran will not produce a change in Iranian behavior or advance U.S. interests,” Mr. Hadley said in a subtle swipe at Mr. Obama’s talk in the past of meeting Iranian leaders without “preconditions.”
Mr. Hadley argued that the Bush administration has increased cooperation with European countries that will give Mr. Obama “significantly increased leverage on Iran.”
“The issue is how the new team will use this leverage to produce a different Iranian policy on its nuclear program, terrorism and Middle East peace,” he said.
Tehran has defied efforts to curb its uranium enrichment, arguing that it is using the fuel only for a civilian nuclear-power plant, though the U.S. government thinks it is seeking nuclear weapons.
In the speech, Mr. Hadley said Mr. Obama’s biggest challenges besides Iran will be stabilizing Pakistan, denuclearizing North Korea, winning the war in Afghanistan, finding a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and handling Russia’s “aggressiveness and uncertain intentions.”
“Loose ends is putting it mildly,” Mr. Hadley said during a question-and-answer session. “There rarely has been an incoming president who has as many challenges and opportunities as President-elect Obama.”
Library legislation reins in presidents
Future donations to presidential libraries would have to be publicly disclosed, the House decided Wednesday.
The library vote and a separate one making it more difficult for former presidents to prevent documents from entering the public domain kicked off a new session of Congress. Majority Democrats have joined with President-elect Barack Obama in promising to make government operations more transparent. Both bills now go to the Senate.
The library measure would require that groups raising funds for presidential libraries make disclosures four times a year of all donations of $200 or more.
The bill is not retroactive and would not apply to the library President Bush has planned for the Southern Methodist University campus in Texas.
Melamine found in more formula
The Food and Drug Administration says the industrial chemical melamine and a byproduct, cyanuric acid, have now been detected in four of 89 containers of infant formula made in the United States, doubling previously reported positive results.
The contamination is extremely minute, at levels federal regulators say are safe for babies.
In November, the Associated Press reported previously undisclosed FDA tests, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, showing that out of 77 containers of domestic infant formula tested, a can of milk-based liquid Nestle Good Start Supreme Infant Formula with Iron contained traces of melamine, while Mead Johnson’s Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid.
The FDA has now updated its response to the AP’s FOIA request by posting results of 89 tests on its Web site. Those results show that two additional containers of Enfamil LIPIL with Iron had traces of cyanuric acid.
Separately, a third major formula maker — Abbott Laboratories, whose brands include Similac — told the AP in November that in-house tests had detected trace levels of melamine in its infant formula.
Those levels were below what the FDA found in the other formulas, an Abbott spokesman said, and below any national safety guidelines.
FERC chairman to leave Jan. 20
Joseph Kelliher, the Republican chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, announced Wednesday he will resign his position effective Jan. 20, coinciding with the end of the Bush administration.
Mr. Kelliher’s departure had been expected as President-elect Barack Obama is all but certain to select a Democrat to head the agency that oversees power-grid reliability and wholesale natural-gas markets.
President Bush nominated Mr. Kelliher to the commission in 2003 and named him chairman two years later. Mr. Kelliher, as a senior Energy Department official, was a key participant in Vice President Dick Cheney’s energy task force.
House schedules kids’ health bill
House Democrats plan to give President-elect Barack Obama an early victory on health care, specifically children’s health care, next week.
Leaders say they are scheduling a vote on renewing a popular health insurance program for children. Unless Congress acts, federal funding for the program expires March 31.
The legislation will look similar to bills the House and Senate twice approved in 2007. President Bush balked at the additional $35 billion in spending in the two bills as well as the method of payment — a tobacco tax. House Democrats could not muster enough support to overcome Mr. Bush’s two vetoes.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said lawmakers discussed whether to include reauthorization of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program as part of an economic-stimulus package or as a stand-alone bill. The growth of the stimulus package in recent weeks led to the decision to move ahead with the latter option.
Dulles rail gets phase 1 approval
The long-anticipated extension of the Washington area’s Metrorail system to Washington Dulles International Airport is another step closer to reality.
Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters announced Wednesday that the Bush administration has given its final approval for phase one of the $5.2 billion project. The project now goes before Congress for its 60-day review.
Wednesday’s decision was expected after the Federal Transit Administration gave its approval last month. That came nearly a year after regulators threatened to pull federal funding because of concerns about cost overruns and other problems.
The Metrorail extension, known as the Silver Line, will be built in two phases. The first will run from Falls Church through Tysons Corner to Reston. The second phase will run from Reston to Dulles and Loudoun County.
Romney rejoins Marriott board
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been reappointed to the board of directors of Marriott International Inc., the company said Wednesday.
Mr. Romney, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2008, previously served on the Marriott International board from 1992 to 2002, when he resigned to pursue the governorship.
“Marriott will get tremendous benefit from the unique combination of strengths Governor Romney brings,” said J.W. “Bill” Marriott Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of the company.
From wire dispatches and staff reports