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One of the tightest primary seasons in US history officially came to a close Saturday when Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton dropped out of the race. Speaking to supporters in Washington, D.C., Clinton urged support for Senator Barack Obama.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "The way to continue our fight now, to accomplish the goals for which we stand, is to take our energy, our passion, our strength and do all we can to help elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States. Today, as I suspend my campaign, I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him."
Clinton was unable to overcome Obama’s lead, despite a string of victories near the end of the contest. She went on to address the historical significance of her campaign as a female candidate.
Sen. Hillary Clinton: "You can be so proud that, from now on, it will be unremarkable for a woman to win primary state victories, unremarkable to have a woman in a close race to be our nominee, unremarkable to think that a woman can be the president of the United States. And that is truly remarkable, my friends."
Clinton had long been declared the front-runner and was even said to be virtually assured of the nomination. But her campaign is widely seen to have suffered over her 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq war and her refusal to apologize for it.
Iraq is trying to assure Iran it would not be used as a staging ground for a military attack under a long-term agreement with the United States. On Sunday, visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told Iranian officials that Iraq would not become a “platform” for harming Iran and its neighbors. The agreement would cover the status of US forces in Iraq following the expiration of its UN mandate in July. The Independent of London reported last week US officials are leveraging tens of billions of dollars in seized Iraqi assets to push through its demands. The Bush administration is seeking to permanently keep more than fifty military bases in Iraq. It’s also insisting on continuing military campaigns without consultation with the Iraqi government and immunity for American soldiers and contractors.
A group of Iraqi lawmakers have released a letter showing a majority would oppose the deal if it lacked a commitment for a US withdrawal. The letter says, “The majority of Iraqi representatives strongly reject any military-security, economic, commercial, agricultural, investment or political agreement with the United States that is not linked to clear mechanisms that obligate the occupying American military forces to fully withdraw from Iraq.”
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, Israel is threatening a new full-scale military attack on the Gaza Strip. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told reporters last week an Israeli attack is more likely than a ceasefire after Palestinian rocket fire killed an Israeli civilian. It was the eighth Israeli to die from Gaza rocket fire since Israel abandoned its Gaza settlements years ago. Israel has killed hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza and intensified the humanitarian crisis with a crippling blockade. In Gaza, Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri called Olmert’s comments a US-backed threat.
Sami Abu Zuhri: "These threats are proof that there is a new American green light to launch a new round of Zionist war against Gaza. We take these threats seriously, but these threats will not frighten us or the Palestinian people, and we will confront it with all strength.”
Meanwhile, Israel is also escalating threats against Iran. Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz has drawn criticism for saying last week an Israeli attack would be inevitable. Mofaz said, "If Iran continues with its program for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective. Attacking Iran, in order to stop its nuclear plans, will be unavoidable." It was the most direct threat against Iran from an Israeli official to date. In a letter to the Security Council, Iran protested Mofaz’s remarks, calling his statement a violation of the UN Charter barring the threat of force. Iran lodged the same complaint over comments by Senator Hillary Clinton last month that Iran would be "destroyed" if it attacked Israel.
Meanwhile, Senator Barack Obama has appeared to backtrack on controversial comments on the future status of Jerusalem. Speaking last week before AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama said Jerusalem must remain undivided and under Israeli control. Israel has occupied East Jerusalem since 1967, and Palestinians see it as part of any future state. In a follow-up interview with CNN, Obama said it will be up to Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate.
In Afghanistan, an Afghan radio journalist with the BBC has been killed in the southern province of Helmand. The reporter, Abdul Samad Rohani, was the second journalist to die in Afghanistan this year. His father, Mowlawi Dost Mohammad, remembered his son at the hospital.
Mowlawi Dost Mohammad: "He was martyred. My son was innocent. We cannot do anything now. He is not with us anymore. I am sure if anyone heard this sad news, he would pray for him. And God bless all of you who are here with me."
Rohani’s death came one day after another BBC journalist was killed in Somalia. Nasteh Dahir Farah died Saturday after being shot by unknown assailants in southern Somalia. Somalia’s internal crisis is intensifying, following the deaths of more than twenty people Sunday in clashes between government troops and rebel forces.
In Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez has announced he’s scrapping a controversial intelligence overhaul, following widespread criticism from human rights rights groups. The rules would have apparently forced Venezuelans to spy on each other. On Sunday, Chavez said he had made a mistake.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "To err is human. We made a mistake, and we have to correct the law, and we are going to correct it. And all Venezuelans have to have the security in our government and this Bolivarian state that we will never trample on the rights of Venezuelans, no matter what their politics. Never."
Chavez went on to address fractured relations with Colombia, where he said FARC rebels should end their armed campaign against the government and release hostages.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: "I believe the hour has come for the FARC to release all those they are holding in the mountains. It would be a great gesture, humanitarian, in exchange for no one. I mention this now as there is a new chief to head the secretariat of the FARC, and this could be the first step toward ending the internal war in Colombia."
Chavez’s comments came one day after Colombia said it had captured two Venezuelans it accused of carrying arms shipments to FARC rebels.
At Guantanamo Bay, a military attorney for the Canadian prisoner Omar Khadr is accusing the Pentagon of ordering interrogators to destroy notes in case they were called to testify on treatment of prisoners. The lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, said the instructions were discovered in a Pentagon “Standard Operating Procedures” manual last week. Khadr has been held in US captivity since he was fifteen years old.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department has confirmed its reviewing the 2002 rendition of the Canadian citizen Maher Arar. Arar was on his way home to Canada when he was seized by US officials and sent to Syria. Arar was imprisoned for close to a year and severely tortured. The Bush administration has refused to apologize. The Justice Department says it’s reopened its probe into Arar’s case after receiving new undisclosed information.
And in Texas, dozens of people gathered in Jasper on Sunday to mark the tenth anniversary of the dragging murder of James Byrd, J. An African American, Byrd was chained to a pickup truck by white assailants and dragged along a rural road, his body badly dismembered.
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