Turkey is denying reports it’s sent forces into northern Iraq to attack Kurdish rebels. The Associated Press reported Wednesday Turkish military officials had confirmed limited operations were taking place. In Washington, State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack backed Turkey’s denial.
State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack: “So what we believe is needed is dialogue, cooperation, action in addressing the PKK threat, but not an incursion by the Turkish army into Iraq. We have been able to check along the border, and we haven’t seen anything.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll in Iraq is approaching 3,500. The Pentagon announced the deaths of four U.S. troops Wednesday, bringing the toll to 3,498. Twenty-two troops have been killed in the first six days of June.
In other Iraq news, leaders of Iraq’s oil workers’ strike say the Iraqi government has issued warrants for their arrest. More than 600 workers have walked off the job to oppose the proposed Iraq oil law and demand better wages. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said this week he would respond “with an iron fist.”
President Bush’s nominee to be the new White House war adviser has admitted he doubted the administration’s so-called troop surge in Iraq. Lieutenant General Douglas Lute has told the Senate Armed Services Committee he voiced his concerns during a White House review of Bush’s plan to send tens of thousands more troops to Iraq earlier this year. Lute’s confirmation hearing is set to begin today.
A former senior Justice Department official has revealed Vice President Cheney personally blocked the promotion of a government lawyer who had raised objections to the Bush administration’s domestic surveillance program. In written testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey says Cheney’s office intervened to prevent the promotion of Patrick Philbin because of Philbin’s vocal concerns. Comey also disclosed Cheney told Justice Department officials he disagreed with their objections to the program at a White House meeting in March 2004. The meeting was held one day after administration officials tried to get then-Attorney General John Ashcroft to sign off on the program as he lay recovering from major surgery in his hospital bed.
In Germany, world leaders at the G8 summit have apparently dropped efforts to convince the Bush administration to agree to mandatory cuts to greenhouse gases. Earlier today British Prime Minister Tony Blair said leaders are close to agreeing on a deal that would set what he called a substantial reduction of emissions as “a target.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel had campaigned for an agreement that would cut emissions to half 1990 levels by the year 2050. But on Wednesday, President Bush repeated his stance he will only agree to targeted “goals.”
President Bush: “I also come with a strong desire to work with you on a post-Kyoto agreement about how we can achieve major objectives. One, of course, is the reduction of greenhouse gases. Another is to become more energy-independent, in our case from crude oil, from parts of the world where we have got some friends and sometimes we don’t have friends.”
Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Barroso urged the U.S and Russia to move beyond the growing dispute over U.S. plans for a missile shield in Eastern Europe.
European Commission President Jose Barroso: “For me the most important challenge is not this Cold War rhetoric that I really find quite puzzling and completely out of tune with reality. The real problems of the world are not those coming from this Cold War rhetoric that is completely inappropriate. The real problems of the world are people dying every day because they don’t have enough food to eat or clean water to drink, the fact that we are having this climate change threat to our planet.”
In other summit news, the Financial Times is reporting the Bush administration has successfully pressured G8 leaders to backtrack on a two-year-old pledge to fund universal access to medical care for sufferers of AIDS. World leaders agreed to reach 10 million AIDS patients at the Gleneagles summit in 2005. Internal documents now show the G8 will now propose to cut that number by half to around five million. The lowered goal was inserted at the apparent insistence of U.S. negotiators. The move would come just one week after President Bush cited AIDS funding as a major priority. A senior G8 official called the proposal “a huge backward step.”
The developments come as tens of thousands of people continue to protest the G8 summit. On Wednesday, activists managed to delay the meeting after a massive blockade of all routes leading to the summit.
A coalition of human rights groups have filed suit against the Bush administration to release information about 39 people it says are being secretly imprisoned. The groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, say the individuals are “ghost prisoners” who have disappeared in the so-called “war on terror.” The suspects’ relatives have also reportedly been detained, including children as young as seven years old.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has announced it’s transferred a new prisoner to Guantanamo Bay. Abdullahi Sudi Arale is believed to have come from a secret U.S. detention facility in Somalia. The U.S. says he played a leading role in the Islamic coalition ousted by U.S.-backed Ethiopian forces last year. McClatchy Newspapers reports Arale had been previously unknown and didn’t appear on the list of key Somali suspects wanted in connection with previous attacks on U.S. facilities.
In the Occupied Territories, a Palestinian man has been shot dead and his wife seriously injured in an Israeli raid on their home in the town of Hebron. According to his children, 67-year-old Isaq al-Jabari confronted the troops after they burst into his home in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Israeli troops shot him in the jaw and then fired on his 60-year-old wife. Both were unarmed. Several Palestinian civilians have been killed or injured in Israeli raids on the Occupied Territories this week. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights says two 14-year-old children were killed in northern Gaza after they flew their kites near an Israeli military post.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials are repeating calls for the release of the kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston. Johnston has been held by unknown assailants in Gaza for nearly two months. This is Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti.
Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti: “We feel happy that he is in good health and in good shape, and we still demand that he would be immediately freed and released without any conditions. The best help that can be done for the Palestinian people is to release him immediately. His work in support of the Palestinian people should encourage those who are kidnapping him illegally to release him immediately and let him go back to his work, to his family in a safe manner.”
In Afghanistan, an Afghan journalist has been killed in her home in Parwan province. Zakia Zaki had recently faced threats from local warlords to shut down her radio station or be killed.
Habiba Zaki, Zakia Zaki’s sister: “She was a hard-working woman. She was an intellectual fighting for freedom and peace. She was killed because she was working hard to express the voice of women, to bring up the voice of freedom and peace. That is why she was killed and she is martyred.”
Zakia Zaki is the second female Afghan journalist to be murdered in the last week. News anchor Sanga Amach was killed by unknown gunmen Friday in Kabul.
In Bolivia, scientists are warning of a major long-term catastrophe if the melting of a major glacier continues apace. The Chacaltaya mountain glacier provides the main water source for hundreds of thousands of people. Experts say it could melt away within a year. Edson Ramirez of UNESCO said the glacier is being harmed by human-driven climate change.
Edson Ramirez: “Without a doubt, global warming is one of the principal factors that is provoking the melting of these glaciers. It is something that is not just having a local impact, as could be thought in the case of Chacaltaya, but we are observing its impact in all of the different glaciers we are monitoring. For example, there are around 10 glaciers, and in all of them it has been observed that since the 1980s they have been melting much more significantly. The proportion (of glacier melt) has tripled.”
In Ukraine, workers have discovered a mass grave believed to contain thousands of Jews killed during the Second World War. The grave was found near a village that Nazis had converted into a Jewish ghetto. Experts believe hundreds of mass grave sites in Ukraine have yet to be found.
BBC News is reporting Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan secretly received hundreds of millions of dollars from a major British arms dealer for negotiating a contract with the Saudi Arabian government. BAE Systems is said to have sent up to $240 million per year to Prince Bandar’s Washington bank account while he was Saudi ambassador to the U.S.
And the bipartisan immigration bill survived another round of challenges in the Senate Wednesday with new restrictions on undocumented workers. Senators defeated amendments that would have disqualified hundreds of thousands of workers from obtaining visas. But senators also rejected measures that would have granted visas to hundreds of thousands of relatives of U.S. citizens and green-card holders. The Senate also voted to end to a proposed guest worker program after five years, just days after it voted to cut the size of the program in half. Senators also adopted amendments that would make English the national and “common” language of the U.S., deny immigrant workers tax credits, and block Social Security benefits to workers who stay past their visa date. A final Senate vote could come tomorrow.