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July 3, 2012 at 7:58 AM
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New U.S. warships in Gulf to deter Iran

MANAMA, Bahrain, July 3 (UPI) -- Washington moved Navy ships into the Persian Gulf, administration officials said, as Iran announced new legislation to disrupt traffic in the Strait of Hormuz.

The warship reinforcements -- designed to enhance the U.S. ability to patrol the vital Persian Gulf shipping lane and to counter a threat posed by Iranian naval mines - is part of the Obama administration's "two track" policy against Iran, senior administration officials told The New York Times.

The policy combines negotiations with new sanctions aimed at Iran's oil revenues and increased military pressure.

"The message to Iran is, 'Don't even think about it,'" a senior Defense Department official told the newspaper.

"Don't even think about closing the strait. We'll clear the mines. Don't even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We'll put them on the bottom of the gulf," the official said.

Another senior administration official told the newspaper last week, "When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it."

Day 4: 1.7 million still without power

WASHINGTON, July 3 (UPI) -- About 1.7 million customers in 10 states and the District of Columbia remained without power Tuesday, four days after storms swept across the mid-Atlantic area.

Crews from as far away as Canada, Texas and Wyoming raced to remove fallen trees and restore power so customers from Indiana to Delaware would have lights, refrigeration and air-conditioning, as relentless heat gripped much of the eastern United States.

The total without power early Tuesday included about 410,000 in West Virginia, 400,000 in Ohio and 340,000 in Virginia.

Authorities said some customers would not have electricity until the weekend.

"While I want to thank them for their progress, they need to move faster," Washington Mayor Vincent Gray told CNN.

More than 43,000 customers in Washington were without power early Tuesday. Temperatures were forecast to reach 98 degrees Fahrenheit, with a 75 percent chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon.

HRW: Syria set up 'torture center' system

DAMASCUS, Syria, July 3 (UPI) -- A human rights group accused Syria Tuesday of running 27 detention centers in which ill-treatment and torture of detainees constitute crimes against humanity.

The Human Rights Watch report, "Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture and Enforced Disappearances in Syria's Underground Prisons since March 2011," is based on more than 200 interviews with former detainees and defectors conducted by Human Rights Watch since the start of anti-government demonstrations in Syria in March 2011.

"The [Syrian] intelligence agencies are running an archipelago of torture centers scattered across the country," Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a release. "By publishing their locations, describing the torture methods and identifying those in charge, we are putting those responsible on notice that they will have to answer for these horrific crimes."

Human Rights Watch called on the U.N. Security Council to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court and adopt targeted sanctions against officials credibly implicated in the abuses.

Meanwhile, 85 Syrian soldiers, including a general and 14 other officers, fled into Turkey overnight with more than 200 family members, Turkish news media said.

The defections -- the largest single-day exodus from Syrian President Bashar Assad's army -- came as Syrian opposition figures gathered in Cairo to devise a unified strategy for pressuring Assad to step down as part of a solution to the 16-month-old bloody conflict the United Nations says has led to more than 10,000 deaths.

Nuclear reactor at Oi passes first test

TOKYO, July 3 (UPI) -- If a nuclear reactor at Oi, Japan, operates without incident and passes inspection, it would be eligible for commercial operation in August, officials said.

The No. 3 reactor at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s nuclear power facility reached criticality -- the point in an intensifying nuclear reaction at which it becomes self-sustaining -- Monday after its operations resumed Sunday, ending Japan's 57-day nuclear power break, Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tuesday.

Officials said the facility's next test would be its ability to generate electricity at a 5 percent level. If there is no problem, the operation would enter a control operation that generates power by connecting to the transmission system, raising its output to 100 percent, then be subject to a final government inspection, officials said.

The No.3 reactor at Oi is Japan's first reactor to resume operations after a regular inspection conducted after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility in March 2011.

Truck blast kills 25 in southern Iraq

BAGHDAD, July 3 (UPI) -- At least 25 people were killed and 75 others wounded on a truck bombing Tuesday in Diwaniyah, a city in southern Iraq, local police said.

The blast occurred before midday when an explosives-laden truck was detonated in a busy marketplace in central Diwaniyah, China's state-run news agency Xinhua reported.

Iraqi security forces cordoned off the scene, and ambulances and civilian cars transported victims to nearby hospitals, police said.

A ban on traffic in the central part of Diwaniyah was imposed until further notice, authorities said.

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