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Jan. 7, 2013 at 8:39 AM
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Obama to tap Brennan as CIA chief

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- President Obama will nominate counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan to lead the CIA, replacing David Petraeus, the White House said.

"John Brennan's career of service and extraordinary record has prepared him to be an outstanding director of the CIA," a White House statement said. "Since [Sept. 11, 2001], he has been on the front lines in the fight against al-Qaida. Over the past four years, he has been involved in virtually all major national security issues and will be able to hit the ground running at CIA."

Obama plans to announce his selection of Brennan at the same time he nominates former Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel to be Defense secretary, USA Today reported.

Obama considered Brennan for the CIA post after the 2008 election, but Brennan withdrew after critics questioned his ties to harsh interrogation methods used by the CIA during President George W. Bush's administration. Brennan has denied involvement in those methods and has spoken against them.

Brennan's years at the spy agency included assignments as deputy executive director, station chief in Saudi Arabia and top presidential briefer, USA Today said.

Petraeus resigned last year after news of an extramarital affair surfaced.

U.S.: Assad plan 'detached from reality'

DAMASCUS, Syria, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. State Department disparaged a proposal Syrian President Bashar Assad said would resolve his country's 21-month uprising as "detached from reality."

Assad's proposal, delivered in a speech Sunday in which he ruled out talks with rebels and rejected international peace proposals, "is yet another attempt by the regime to cling to power and does nothing to advance the Syrian people's goal of a political transition," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"His initiative is detached from reality, undermines the efforts of Joint Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi, and would only allow the regime to further perpetuate its bloody oppression of the Syrian people," she said.

Brahimi, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, had no immediate comment on Washington's assessment or on Assad's brushoff, which came 13 days after Brahimi met with Assad in Damascus, the Syrian capital, in a push for a negotiated solution.

"We don't want anyone to come to Syria to tell us what should be done for a political operation," Assad said in Damascus Opera House. "Everyone who comes to Syria knows [that] Syria accepts advice, but doesn't take dictation."

People briefed on Assad's meeting with Brahimi told The Wall Street Journal Assad insisted only he could steer Syria out of the crisis. They said he told the veteran Algerian diplomat he would lead Syria until his term ends next year and then run again, the Journal said.

Abbas orders 'State of Palestine' logo

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas ordered that official documents bear a "State of Palestine" logo instead of one that says "Palestinian National Authority."

Abbas instructed government ministries, and missions abroad, to replace documents with the new logo in accordance with the U.N. recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state, Israel Radio reported Sunday.

The Palestinian Authority leader said new passports and identity cards will be issued with the new logo.

The new policy, to take effect immediately, is aimed at advancing sovereignty on Palestinian areas in advance of full independence Abbas said.

Gang-rape suspects hear charges

NEW DELHI, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A magistrate hearing the case against five men accused in the rape, murder and kidnapping of an Indian woman ordered the courtroom closed to the public.

The suspects arrived at the Metropolitan Magistrates' Court in Saket district to hear the charges against them amid tight security and heavy media coverage, CNN reported.

The attack on the 23-year-old woman in New Delhi Dec. 16 sparked protests over India's treatment of women and handling of sexual attacks.

Tempers ran hot inside the courtroom before the men arrived, with some lawyers criticizing offers by some of their colleagues to represent the suspects, CNN said.

"You will not defend those barbarians!" one lawyer shouted.

The local bar association last week vowed not to represent any of the suspects because of the nature of the crimes.

Magistrate Namrita Aggarwal asked people not connected with the case to leave but when none left, she walked out, CNN said.

When she returned, Aggarwal ordered the hearing be closed and barred media from publishing proceedings related to the case without the court's permission, citing concerns about the suspects' safety.

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