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U.S. Dismisses Iranian Letter to Bush as Ploy

The Bush administration is dismissing a diplomatic attempt by Iran to resolve the international debate over Tehran’s nuclear program. On Monday Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent President Bush an 18-page letter suggesting "new ways" to settle the dispute. The letter marked the first communication between the two countries leaders since the fall of the shah 27 years ago. The text of the letter has not been released but U.S. officials downplayed its significance. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "This letter is not the place that one would find an opening to engage on the nuclear issue or anything of the sort." US intelligence chief John Negroponte suggested the letter was a ploy by the Iranians to undermine international pressure on the nuclear issue.

  • John Negroponte: "Given the fact that the issue of Iran is before the United Nations at this time, certainly one of the hypotheses you’d have to examine is whether and in what way the timing of the dispatch of that letter is connected with trying in some manner to influence the debate before the Security Council, but again having not read the letter I don’t think I could comment further."

Meanwhile on Monday night ministers from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Germany and the European Union met in New York to discuss Iran. But they failed to reach an agreement on a possible UN resolution. The U.S. is pushing for a resolution to authorize sanctions and the possible use of force.

CIA’s Third Highest Official, Dusty Foggo, Resigns

The number three man at the CIA, Kyle 'Dusty' Foggo, has resigned just days after the unexpected resignation of CIA Director Porter Goss. The FBI is investigating whether Foggo helped defense contractor Brent Wilkes win government contracts. The two are childhood friend and so close they have named their children after each other. Wilkes has been accused of bribing former Republican Congressman Duke Cunningham with prostitutes, limos and hotel rooms and arranging private poker games attended by Foggo and others. Meanwhile a number of top Republicans, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, are voicing concern over President Bush’s decision to nominate four-star General Michael Hayden to become the head of the CIA. Hayden acknowledged his critics during a brief ceremony at the White House.

  • Gen. Michael Hayden: "In the confirmation process I look forward to meeting members of the congress and better understanding their concerns and working with them to move the American intelligence community forward," Hayden said. "This is simply too important to get absolutely right."

A spokesperson for House Speaker Dennis Hastert said the country "should not have a military person leading the CIA, a civilian agency." Republicans are also concerned that Hayden’s confirmation hearing will center on his role at the National Security Agency where he approved President Bush’s plan to illegally conduct domestic surveillance without court warrants. Earlier this year NSA whistleblower Russell Tice appeared on Democracy Now and criticized Hayden’s role in the spy operation. "Certainly General Alexander and General Hayden and Bill Black knew that this was illegal," Tice said.

Top GOP House Aide Pleads Guilty In Abramoff Scandal

In other news from Washington — a former top Republican Congressional aide has pleaded guilty to conspiring with lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The aide, Neil Volz, served as chief of staff to Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio. Volz admitted he accepted gifts and trips from Abramoff in exchange for political favors. According to the plea deal, Abramoff also bought off Congressman Ney who is identified in the papers only as Representative Number One. The court papers suggest Ney personally helped Abramoff by meeting with his Indian tribal clients and promising to introduce legislation to benefit their gambling operations.

Rove Indictment in Leak Case Remains A Possibility

This update on the CIA leak case — a reporter from MSNBC has publicly said he is convinced Karl Rove will be indicted in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame. The reporter, David Shuster, made the comment last night, a week after Rove made his fifth appearance before the grand jury investigating the outing of Plame, the wife of Ambassador Joseph Wilson. Shuster is the same reporter who revealed on MSNBC that Plame was working undercover investigating Iran’s nuclear program at the time of her outing. On Monday the Washington Post reported that Rove had advised his colleagues at the White House on the importance of defending prewar intelligence and countering Wilson’s critique of the war.

Group Estimates 109 Iraqi Journalists Have Died During War

A new report by the Iraqi Journalists Union has determined that 109 Iraqi journalists have died over the past three years. 17 of the journalists were shot by U.S. troops. The report indicates far more journalists in Iraq have died than has been previously stated. The Committee to Protect Journalism has put the total number of journalists killed in Iraq at 70. Meanwhile, The Guardian newspaper reports two more Iraqi journalists were found dead near Baghdad on Monday. A day earlier witnesses reported seeing their vehicle being stopped by men wearing police uniforms who took them away.

UN Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland: Situation in Darfur Is Deteriorating

In news from the Sudan, the UN’s emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland, visited refugee camps in Darfur on Monday. He praised last week’s peace deal but warned about the present conditions.

  • Jan Egeland: "In Darfur today the situation is deteriorating. That is why the Abuja Peace Accord is the right signal of hope and change in this situation. What we hope and believe is that all of the groups, all of the rebel movements will join and that we can now start the long uphill road towards peace — the United Nations would help in this, the humanitarian organizations will help in this, we should all help in this. At the same time I’ve seen how badly we need more resources to the humanitarian work. We have too little food now to give full rations to all of the people in the next few months."

UN’s emergency relief coordinator Jan Egeland was forced to cut short his trip to Darfur after riots broke out and an interpreter for the African Union was killed. Meanwhile in Washington, President Bush called on Congress to spend an additional $225 million on food aid to Sudan.

UN To Investigate Reports of Aid Workers Sexually Exploiting Liberian Girls

The United Nations has revealed it is investigating allegations that aid workers from the World Food Program and other international groups have been sexually exploiting young girls in Liberia. On Monday the British aid organization Save the Children released a report about the crisis in Liberia. This is Corinna Csaky of Save the Children.

  • Corinna Csaky: "Save the Children research found that children as young as eight are involving in exchanging sex for money to buy food for the family, or to go to school, even for small things like a bar of soap. And although eight was the youngest age we found, Save the Children also found that girls from twelve up were having regular sex in exchange for money."

Meanwhile UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the situation is already improving in Liberia.

  • Stephane Dujarric: "The interesting thing is that the "Save the Children" report looks at a number of cases last year but since then the mission says the cases that have been reported has been going down," Dujarric said. "We obviously would like to see a situation where none of these cases exist but in the meantime the mission is constantly trying to strengthen its safeguards."

South African Presidential Candidate Cleared of Rape Charges

And in South Africa, the country’s former Deputy President Jacob Zuma has relaunched his bid for the presidency — just a day after he was acquitted on rape charges. Zuma had been seen as a frontrunner to follow President Thabo Mbeki up until he was charged with raping a family friend. Womens rights group fear the case will deter others from reporting rape. The woman who brought the charges was heckled as she arrived in court and was aggressively cross-examined about her sexual history. AIDS activists are also concerned about the case might undermine years of prevention campaigns in South Africa where 6 million people have AIDS. Zuma, who once headed the country’s campaign against AIDS, admitted he had unprotected sex with the woman even though he knew she was HIV+.

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