Congress struggling to finish war-spending bill

Friday, April 29, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Congressional negotiators have a tentative deal to pay for the U.S. Embassy in Iraq but could not resolve all their differences on a spending bill, delaying approval of $81 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan for at least a few weeks. As a result, President Bush probably will not get the measure until mid-May. The Senate planned to be on break next week, returning to work on May 9. Congressional aides say a tentative agreement would include $592 million for an embassy in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. The final amount is below the $658 million that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had wanted for it.

Taiwan leader arrives in Beijing for meeting

BEIJING -- Taiwan's opposition leader appealed for a peaceful settlement to tensions between Beijing and Taipei ahead of a meeting today with President Hu Jintao in the highest-level contact between the two sides in six decades. Lien Chan's meeting with Hu will cap a reconciliation between Taiwan's Nationalists and China's communists. The two groups fought a civil war that split China in 1949 but have united in opposition to Taiwanese activists who want formal independence. Lien's eight-day visit to the mainland comes amid efforts by Beijing to isolate Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, whose party favors independence, by forging ties with parties such as Lien's that support eventually uniting Taiwan with the mainland.

Palestinian leader vows to strike truce violators

JERUSALEM -- In his toughest warning to militants, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday threatened to strike with an "iron fist" anyone who violates a truce with Israel and pledged quiet during Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements this summer. Meanwhile, about 10,000 Israelis streamed into one of the West Bank settlements slated for evacuation to protest the pullout. The rally, far smaller than organizers had expected, followed a protest in a Gaza settlement bloc Wednesday that also was smaller than planned. Most of the militant groups have agreed to a truce with Israel, declared in February.

Soldier given death penalty for attack on comrades

FORT BRAGG, N.C. -- A military jury sentenced a soldier to death Thursday for a grenade and rifle attack on his own comrades during the opening days of the Iraq invasion, a barrage that killed two officers and that prosecutors said was driven by religious extremism. Sgt. Hasan Akbar gave a brief, barely audible apology hours earlier. He could have been sentenced to life in prison with or without parole for the early morning March 2003 attack, which also wounded 14 fellow members of the Army's 101st Airborne Division at Camp Pennsylvania in Kuwait.

CDC:Non-DEET repellents can combat West Nile

ATLANTA -- After years of promoting the chemical DEET as the best defense against West Nile-bearing mosquitoes, the government for the first time is recommending the use of two other insect repellents. Repellents containing the chemical picaridin or the oil of lemon eucalyptus offer "long-lasting protection against mosquito bites," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding that repellents with DEET remain on the agency's recommendation list. Both products have been available elsewhere in the world, including Europe and Australia, "for some time," the CDC said.

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