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May 16, 2007 at 1:01 PM
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Iraq scoured for missing U.S. troops

BAGHDAD, Iraq, May 16 (UPI) -- A U.S. general in Baghdad said Wednesday thousands of coalition troops are scouring Iraq for three abducted U.S. soldiers.

At a news conference, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said "we and our Iraqi counterparts are doing absolutely everything we can to find" the three men abducted in an ambush Saturday south of Baghdad.

Caldwell said 143 tips have come in that resulted in the launch of "37 deliberate operations going after targets."

He said more than 600 people had been questioned and 11 of them detained after the ambush that killed four U.S. troops and an Iraqi soldier.

U.S. aircraft were also dropping thousands of leaflets in the area offering a $200,000 reward for information that would lead to arrests or locating the missing soldiers.

The military has identified three of the four soldiers killed, but the identity of the missing three can't be confirmed until DNA tests determine the name of the fourth soldier, who was burned beyond recognition.

Iraqi police deny chlorine used in bomb

BAGHDAD, May 16 (UPI) -- Iraqi police northeast of Baghdad reversed themselves Wednesday and said a bomb that killed 32 people a day earlier did not contain chlorine gas.

The blast Tuesday in a parked car near a market in the village of Abu Saydah about 25 miles northeast of Baquba also injured more than 60 people, Alalam reported.

Initial reports were that doctors at a local hospital attributed victims' burns to the use of poison gas, a BBC correspondent reported. Hospital officials said many of the wounded were also having difficulty breathing and had their vision affected, which is typical of chlorine exposure.

However, police later denied there had been chlorine involved, Alalam said.

In April, 35 people were killed in Ramadi, west of Baghdad, when a chlorine bomb exploded.

The chemical, used for water purification, is widely available in Iraq.

Iran invites Arab nuclear inspectors

TEHRAN, Iran, May 16 (UPI) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced he will permit neighboring countries to send inspectors to Iranian nuclear facilities.

Ahmadinejad said Tuesday he will allow representatives from Persian Gulf Arab countries to visit Iran's nuclear power plant to ensure that the country's nuclear facilities are meant for peaceful purposes, the Fars News Agency reported Wednesday.

"Iran has invited scientists, experts and economists from neighboring countries to visit the Bushehr facility and observe things closely" Ahmadinejad said.

Ashcroft almost quit over eavesdropping

WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft nearly resigned after the White House recertified an anti-terrorism program, another former official told Congress.

Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey testified before the Senate

Judiciary Committee that he, Ashcroft and other officials were poised to resign when the White House went ahead with a counter-terrorism program that Ashcroft had refused to approve, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Comey didn't say which program he was discussing, but U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said the program was the National Security Agency warrantless surveillance program, The Hill reported.

Comey described a 2004 scene in which White House aides, including Counsel Alberto Gonzales, now the U.S. attorney general, tried to pressure Ashcroft in his hospital bed into approving the domestic eavesdropping program.

Ashcroft was described as very ill. He was suffering from pancreatitis, which led to his gall bladder being removed. He had transferred his power as attorney general to Comey.

Ashcroft "lifted his head off the pillow and in very strong terms expressed his view of the matter, rich in both substance and fact, which stunned me," Comey said.

MySpace removes sex offender profiles

WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- The social networking Web site MySpace said it needs subpoenas from state attorneys general looking for sex offenders who belong to the site.

MySpace said it was "doing everything short of breaking the law to ensure that the information about these predators gets to the proper authorities," The New York Times reported Wednesday.

But an attorney general seeking the names of known sex offenders who are members of MySpace, which is popular with teenagers, said subpoenas shouldn't be necessary to get sex offenders' names.

"I do believe it is disingenuous and disappointing because much of the information that we have sought, specifically the numbers of convicted sex offenders on the site require no subpoena or any other compulsory process," Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal told the Times. Blumenthal is working with a group of 50 attorneys general seeking the information.

"We have a valid and viable need to know about convicted sexual offenders who may pose a threat to children," he said.

MySpace said the Electronic Communications Privacy Act "prohibits us from disclosing the information they're seeking without a subpoena."

A company official told the Times MySpace has removed the profile of thousands of sex offenders since the beginning of May.

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