Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has apparently confirmed for the first time that Israel has nuclear weapons. On Monday, during an interview on German television, Olmert listed Israel among countries with nuclear arms. Olmert’s comment came as he was asked about Iran’s alleged nuclear program.
After the interview, an Israeli government spokesperson denied Olmert intended to suggest that Israel has nuclear weapons. Last week in Washington, incoming U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates shocked many when he said Israel had nuclear arms. Gates said it is a leading reason why Iran may be seeking its own nuclear weapons.
Israel is believed to have over 100 nuclear warheads but it has never publicly acknowledged it.
In Iraq, at least 57 people have died after a pair of car bombs exploded in Baghdad. Targeted in the attack were a group of day laborers seeking work.
In Anbar province, 18 Marines have been injured after their helicopter was forced to make a hard landing. Three U.S. aircraft have gone down in the Anbar province in the past two weeks. The Pentagon also announced the death of three more soldiers in Iraq. 46 U.S. soldiers died in the first 10 days of the month putting December on pace to be one of the deadliest months of the war for US forces.
On Monday President Bush spoke at the State Department after meeting with advisers about Iraq.
Today the president is planning to hold a videoconference with U.S. military commanders in Baghdad and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. He is also expected to meet with Iraq’s Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi in Washington.
Meanwhile a new CBS poll found that just 21 percent of Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of the war — it is the lowest number he’s ever received.
Outgoing United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan accused the United States of abandoning its ideals as it fights its so-called war on terror. Annan’s comments came in an address in Independence Missouri at the library of former President Harry Truman.
Kofi Annan also said human rights and the rule of law are vital to global security and prosperity.
In the Indonesian province of Aceh, a former independence leader appears set to become governor after winning a historic election. Irwandi Yusuf is a former spokesperson of the pro-independence Free Aceh Movement or GAM. The elections were the first to be held since the Indonesian government and the GAM signed a peace agreement last year. Yusuf said he never expected to become governor of Aceh.
Irwandi Yusuf was jailed in 2003 for opposing the Indonesian government. He escaped in 2004 when the tsunami flooded his jail.
In Chile, a funeral is being held today for former dictator Augusto Pinochet who died on Sunday at the age of 91. Street celebrations continue in Santiago to mark the death of the man who brutally ruled the country for 17 years. Supporters of Pinochet lined up for hours on Monday to pay respects for the former dictator. Over 10,000 people filed past his coffin at Santiago’s Military Academy. Meanwhile street clashes between supporters and opponents of Pinochet continue. Over 100 people have been arrested. On Monday Chilean president Michele Bachelet called for calm.
Bachelet also said Chileans should not forget what happened under General Pinochet. She said "Only then will we have a constructive vision of our future, guaranteeing respect for the fundamental rights of all Chileans." Bachelet has decided not to attend today’s funeral. She was once jailed and tortured by the Pinochet regime. The Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon who led a campaign to bring Pinochet to justice also spoke on Monday.
In Britain, the Observer newspaper reports that cabinet ministers have been told by the Foreign Office to stop using the phrase 'war on terror.' The British government said it wanted to avoid using language that could be counter-productive. The White House coined the phrase shortly after the 9/11 attacks but many British officials now feel the term has inflamed opinions worldwide.
In Iran, a group of students disrupted a speech by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday. It marked the first major public protest against Ahmadinejad since he took office. The students screamed Death to the Dictator, set photographs of the president on fire and threw firecrackers at him. Ahmadinejad cut his speech short. As he left, students kicked at the car that carried him away. The president’s guards did not remove the students or use force to stop the protests. Meanwhile Iran is hosting an international conference questioning whether the Holocaust occurred. Holocaust deniers from around the world are attending including former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke who claimed that the gas chambers in which millions perished actually did not exist.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has sharply criticized Israel for blocking the United Nations from investigating the recent killing of 19 Palestinians in Gaza. Tutu was scheduled to head a fact-finding mission to Beit Hanun but Israeli officials failed to grant him the necessary travel visas.
An Israeli government spokesperson said Israel was concerned about the mission’s platform, saying it "advances a biased anti-Israeli agenda".
Congressman Dennis Kucinich is planning to announce today that he will run again for president. The Ohio Democrat accused the leadership of his party of not pushing hard enough to end the Iraq war.
Dennis Kucinich spoke on Monday at a hearing featuring the authors of the recent Lancet study that found as many as 660,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed during the war in Iraq.
In environmental news, scientists are warning that within 30 years the Arctic will almost be completely ice-free making it possible for ships to sail to the North Pole. Global warming has caused sea ice in the Arctic to shrink at a record pace.
A new study out of South Africa has found that the country’s life expectancy has dropped by 13 years since 1990 because of the AIDS epidemic. The average South African now only lives to be 51 years old.
A prominent Republican lawmaker is coming under criticism for apparently endorsing the assassination of Cuban president Fidel Castro. A new documentary called 638 Ways To Kill Castro features a brief interview with Florida Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was recently tapped to become the top Republican on the House International Relations Committee. She accused the filmmakers of splicing together her words but she admitted to the Miami Herald that she can’t rule out that she ever mentioned Castro and a potential assassination. Ros-Lehtinen said '’If someone were to do it, I wouldn't be crying."
In Britain, a series of anti-nuclear protests were held Monday to protest Tony Blair’s push to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons. Two protesters managed to unfurl a banner inside Parliament that read "Sane Government, Not More Missiles." 28 protesters were arrested in a series of actions across the country.
And in media news, the FCC appears to be a step closer to approving the multi-billion merger of AT&T and Bell South. On Friday the FCC’s General Counsel ruled that Republican FCC Chair Robert McDowell can vote on the merger. For the past year McDowell has been largely prevented by ethics rules for participating in proceedings in which his former employer — CompTel–had been a party.