February 08, 2007

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Headlines (5:00)
The main Palestinian political factions of Fatah and Hamas today signed an agreement for a national unity government after two days of talks in the Saudi city of Mecca. The deal allocates more cabinet level positions to Fatah, other factions, and independent politicians. it also designates Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the head of negotiations with Israel, and opens the Palestinian Authority security forces to Hamas. Most of the cabinet positions have been filled as of today, with the notable exception of Interior Minister. Negotiators hope the complex deal will attain 2 principal objectives. One, end the fighting between the two main factions which has claimed the lives of more than 90 Palestinians since December and two – contribute to the lifting of the sanctions imposed since Hamas took power a year ago. (Manar Jibrin contributed to this report)

In Iraq, a high-level Shiite official was taken into custody today as part of the implementation of a new security plan for Baghdad. Hiba Dawood reports.

A joint American-Iraqi force today raided the Iraqi Ministry of Health building and arrested the minister’s deputy, Hakim Al Zamli, a supporter of Shiite cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. Reasons for the arrest were unknown at the time, but Zamli has reportedly been accused of aiding Shiite militias. The ministry’s spokesman, Qassim Alawy said that the mixed force entered the building and broke doors and windows during the highly irregular arrest. Falah Hassan Shanshal, a member of the parliament and a Sadr movement supporter says that the deputy Health Minister’s arrest violates national sovereignty. (sound) “Hakim Al Zamili’s arrest was done by the American forces, without a warrant and without the knowledge of the Iraqi government. And this is not right. It will create a lot of problems. The Iraqi force that joined was brigade 36, which is a group that takes its orders from the American forces, and works with them at the airport. Do you consider it as an Iraqi force?!” Meanwhile, a car bomb exploded in a vegetable market in southern Baghdad today, killing 17 people and wounded 27. I am Hiba Dawood for FSRN.

Italian media is reporting that the US has refused to extradite a US soldier accused of murdering an Italian intelligence agent who helped secure the release of a kidnapped Italian journalist in Iraq. Diletta Varlese has the story.

Italy’s Foreign Ministry today asked for the cooperation of US authorities in the trial of Army Specialist Mario Lozano, who was indicted yesterday for the murder of Italian special agent, Nicola Calipari. Italy has requested Lozano’s extradition – something the US has refused. On the 4th of March of 2005, a US military patrol fired upon the Italian intelligence agent as he drove journalist Giuliana Sgrena to Baghdad’s airport. The US military claims that no one knew the journalist was in the car. Lozano could be tried in absentia if he is not present in Italy by the trial’s April 17th start date. For FSRN, I’m Diletta Varlese in Italy.

NBC’s Tim Russert once again took the witness stand today in the trial of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby. Russert is the final witness for the prosecution in the case stemming from the leak of a CIA agent’s identity. The cross-examination by the defense seemed geared to discredit the host of “Meet the Press” and reports indicate that one of Russert’s network colleagues, Andrea Mitchell, has been subpoenaed to testify for the defense – a subpoena she is challenging.

The latest round of multilateral negotiations to persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear program opened today in China. Fears have risen recently that the reclusive state may set off a second atomic device like the one they tested back in October. But as FSRN’s Jason Strother reports from Seoul, negotiators are optimistic that the talks may produce a breakthrough.

Progress is being made, Washington’s chief envoy, Undersecretary of State Christopher Hill told reporters in Beijing on Thursday. The six nations involved in the talks, which include both Koreas, the US, host China, Russia and Japan, last met in December when a deal seemed all but hopeless. But after an unprecedented one on one meeting last month between Hill and his North Korean counterpart, hope has risen that Pyongyang may come clean with its atomic program. The North is expected to ask for economic incentives as well as security guarantees in exchange for shutting down operations at its main nuclear facility and permitting inspectors to return. North Korea walked away from a 2005 deal to disarm after the Bush administration froze one of its overseas bank accounts, suspected of being used to launder counterfeit American dollars. North Korean negotiator Kim Kye Gwan says that before any new agreement can be reached, the U-S must give up its hostile policy. Washington denies such a policy exists. For Free Speech Radio News in Seoul, South Korea, I’m Jason Strother.

US Senate Stalemate on Troops in Iraq (3:45)
The Senate debate on Iraq remains stalled, sidelined because of disagreement between the two parties on how to proceed, and neither side is giving in, yet.  The House, which originally was going to wait until the Senate completed its debate, has moved forward.  Their debate will begin next week.  This comes as a new government issued report on Iraq gives a stunning assessment of the war’s costs in dollars and in people power.  FSRN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell reports.

In other news from DC, the Senate confirmed, 83-14, General George Casey as Army Chief of Staff.  The Senate also confirmed Admiral William Fallon to be the top commander in Iraq and Michael McConnell to the number 2 position at the State Department.

Congressional Inquiry into Department of Homeland Security Contracting Continues (4:00)
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform reviewed wasteful spending in two contracts the Department of Homeland Security awarded to private corporations. The Committee says more oversight of projects outsourced to the private sector is a necessity. Nan McCurdy has more from Capitol Hill.

Unexpected Outcome in Watada Trial (4:00)
The court-martial of the first commissioned U.S. military officer to refuse to serve in Iraq ended abruptly Wednesday when the military judge overseeing the proceedings declared a mistrial over a technicality. FSRN’s Aaron Glantz reports from Fort Lewis.

Climate Change Impacts East Africa (3:30)
Environmental ministers from at least 100 nations have been meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi since Monday to devise ways of saving mother earth.  The UN organized meeting is taking place only days after the toughest warning yet that humankind is to blame for global warming. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) which hosts the week-long talks says globalization was running down the world’s resources while not delivering the benefits expected of it. From neighboring Uganda F-S-R-N’s Joshua Kyalimpa reports that already the effects of climate change are being felt across the East African region.

“Guantanamo North” Detainees Hunger Strike in Canada (3:30)
In Canada a group of detainees held under controversial national legislation entitled ‘Security Certificates’ are on a hunger strike. Three detainees are participating in the strike at a prison in Kingston, Ontario built exclusively for the detainees which activists in Canada label ‘Guantanamo North’. Stefan Christoff reports from Montreal.

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