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Nov. 16, 2012 at 10:00 PM
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Poll: Majority upbeat about next 4 years

PRINCETON, N.J., Nov. 16 (UPI) -- A majority of Americans say they're upbeat about the country's prospects during the next four years, although the figure is down from 2008, Gallup said Friday.

Fifty-four percent of Americans say they are more positive about the next four years under President Barack Obama's leadership, and 41 percent said they thought the country would be worse off, results of the Gallup-USA Today poll indicated.

The level of optimism following Obama's historic 2008 election was 65 percent.

The Princeton, N.J., polling agency said the nation's optimism resembles or exceeds levels after other recent election, particularly a few months after George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, when 53 percent said they were optimistic.

Democrats are nearly unanimous in their positive feelings about the next four years, with 94 percent saying things will be better for the country and 4 percent saying they think things will be worse.

In nearly an opposite vein, 11 percent of Republicans said the country will be better off and 86 percent said it would worsen.

Independents are upbeat about the future, 51 percent to 40 percent, Gallup said.

Results are based on nationwide telephone interviews with 1,009 adults conducted Nov. 9-12. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

U.S. eases ban on Myanmar imports

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The United States eased the nearly decade-old ban on Myanmar imports, recognizing the country's progress, the State and the Treasury departments said.

The Myanmar government and its leadership, including opposition lawmaker Aung San Suu Kyi, have expressed hope that the import ban would be eased, to help integrate the country into the global economy, the cabinet departments said Friday in a joint release.

Friday's actions were intended to support the Myanmar government's reform efforts and to encourage further change, as well as offer new opportunities for Myanmar and U.S. businesses, the release said.

President Barack Obama is to travel to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, Monday.

In light of the positive steps Myanmar President Thein Sein's government has taken -- including prisoner releases, opening up elections, easing protest rules and allowing the formation of labor unions -- the United States issued a waiver and general license "to ease the ban on imports into the United States of products" from Myanmar, the release said.

However, because concerns remain about some areas of trade with Myanmar, "this waiver and license do not affect the existing prohibitions and restrictions on the importation of jadeite and rubies mined or extracted from [Myanmar], and on articles of jewelry containing them," the release said.

The two departments said they were "committed" to working with the Myanmar government to address the concerns.

Despite positive changes, the United States still is concerned about corruption, political prisoners, the country's military ties to North Korea and ethnic conflict, State and Treasury officials said.

U.N.: Iran ready to double uranium output

UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- Iran is ready to double the output of its underground uranium enrichment facility, the United Nations nuclear watchdog has concluded.

A leaked report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency said the number of operating centrifuges at the Fordo, Iran, facility could soon double from 1,400 to 2,800. The report said Iran produced 233 kilograms (512 pounds) of higher-grade enriched uranium since 2010, 43 kilograms (94.7 pounds) since August.

The report is likely to fuel western suspicion Iran is developing nuclear weapons, although the government insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful, the BBC said Friday.

A senior Iranian legislator said proposed talks with the United States will not take place as long as Washington maintains a hostile attitude toward Iran.

"At a time when the U.S. position on the Islamic Republic is hostile, they approve anti-Iran budgets in the Congress, impose sanctions on the (Iranian) government and adopt resolutions against us, negotiations are meaningless," Alaeddin Boroujerdi, leader of the Iran Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, told the Iranian news agency PressTV.

General: Some U.S. forces should stay

WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- U.S. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, President Obama's choice as the next commander in Afghanistan, says a NATO pullout in 2014 is realistic.

Dunford, testifying Thursday before a Senate committee holding hearings on his confirmation, said some U.S. forces are likely to stay in the country after NATO withdraws, The Washington Post reported.

The Senate is expected to act quickly on Dunford's confirmation. He is to succeed Marine Gen. John Allen as commander of the International Security Assistance Force, the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan.

Dunford said more than 1,000 soldiers would be needed in Afghanistan after 2014 but did not specify a number.

Allen, who has been appointed commander of U.S. forces in Europe, was supposed to appear with Dunford at a joint confirmation hearing. Obama asked the Senate to wait on confirming Allen after he became entangled in the sexual scandal that forced retired Gen. David Petraeus to resign as director of the CIA.

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