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April 25, 2009 at 7:59 AM

Clinton: Bombings won't derail Iraq

BAGHDAD, April 25 (UPI) -- This week's bombings do not signal a return of the 2006 sectarian conflict in Iraq and won't derail its progress, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says.

"In Iraq, there will always be political conflicts," Clinton told The New York Times in Kuwait Friday evening before Saturday's unannounced visit to Baghdad. "But I really believe that Iraq, as a whole, is on the right track."

Her visit to Baghdad comes after at least 140 people were killed more than 200 wounded in a wave of bombings aimed at Shiite pilgrims in Iraq, bringing back memories of the relentless sectarian violence of three years ago that pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Clinton, however, acknowledged the attacks were worrisome, telling reporters she would seek a briefing on the situation from Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. military commander in Iraq.

Clinton arrived in Baghdad Saturday on a C-17 military transport plane. She was greeted on the tarmac by the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Christopher Hill; U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the Times said.


North Korea restarts extracting plutonium

PYONGYANG, North Korea, April 25 (UPI) -- North Korea says it is extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel rods at its Yongbyon facility for use in the manufacture of nuclear weapons.

The North's foreign ministry made the announcement Saturday just hours after the U.N. Security Council moved to freeze the assets of two companies and a bank believed to be connected to Pyongyang's nuclear and ballistic missile efforts, the South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.

A spokesman for the ministry told the official Korean Central News Agency, "The reprocessing of spent fuel rods from the pilot atomic power plant began as declared in the Foreign Ministry statement dated April 14."

North Korea had warned April 14 it was pulling out of stalled six-party nuclear disarmament talks with South Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. Officials said they would restore the Yongbyon nuclear facility after the Security Council condemned its rocket launch earlier this month.

In the statement, North Korea said the plutonium to be extracted from spent fuel rods would be used to build nuclear weapons.


Cheney seeks release of detainee files

WASHINGTON, April 25 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is seeking the release of files backing his case that harsh CIA interrogations saved U.S. lives, records show.

National Archives and Records Administration documents indicate Cheney last month sought the release of a pair of CIA reports issued July 13, 2004, and June 1, 2005 -- both a in a file marked "detainees" that was kept in the vice president's office, The Washington Post reported Saturday.

Cheney made the request March 31 and presidential archivist Stephannie Oriabure responded with an April 8 letter saying the documents require "an agency review" before being released. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told the Post said the review will take "up to about three weeks' time."

Cheney has emerged as a fierce critic of U.S. President Barack Obama's decision to release four "top secret" memos in which Bush administration lawyers sanctioned harsh tactics for questioning prisoners. Cheney contends the techniques, which included simulated drowning, produced results that thwarted further terror plots.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, said Cheney is trying to bolster his argument by "cherry-picking" intelligence that back his contentions.


ANC takes two key S. African provinces

PRETORIA, South Africa, April 25 (UPI) -- The ruling African National Congress has won two major South African provinces in national elections, returns indicated Saturday.

The ANC took the economic center of the country, Gauteng, as well as ANC leader Jacob Zuma's home province of KwaZulu-Natal, allAfrica.com reported.

Only the results from the Western Cape province remained unofficial by Saturday morning, but the opposition Democratic Alliance had already wrested control of the province from the ANC.

The ANC had tallied 11.6 million votes; the DA 2.9 million and the ANC breakaway party, the Congress of the People, had received 1.3 million votes by early Saturday, the Web site said. Final results were expected by Saturday afternoon, when it will be learned if the ANC had secured the two-thirds parliamentary majority it sought.

The ruling party had 66.3 percent of the vote, the Globe & Mail of Johannesburg reported earlier Saturday. The ANC would need 66.6 percent to change the constitution.

Helen Zille, leader of the Democratic Alliance, said she planned to offer a coalition to smaller parties, possibly including the Congress of the People. COPE was founded a few months ago by supporters of Thabo Mbeki, the former president, who was ousted from the ANC leadership by Zuma.

The ANC, after decades as an underground group opposing apartheid rule, has governed South Africa since 1994. In the last election, in 2004, the party won almost 70 percent of the vote.

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