The New York Times is reporting the US is preparing to accuse Iran of building a secret underground facility to produce nuclear fuel. President Obama will reportedly make the announcement at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh later today. The alleged site is not yet operational. The Obama administration says it decided to make the allegations public after discovering Iran was aware Western intelligence agencies had monitored the site. Earlier today, European officials said Iran notified the International Atomic Energy Agency of a previously undisclosed uranium enrichment plant earlier this week.
The UN Security Council has unanimously passed a resolution to limit nuclear proliferation. The US-drafted measure calls for further efforts to achieve “a world without nuclear weapons.” But critics say it fails to include mandatory provisions that would have required nuclear states to take concrete disarmament steps. The resolution also lacks any call on states to halt production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. President Obama became the first US president to chair a UN Security Council summit, which also marked the fifth summit-level meeting of the council in its sixty-three years of existence.
President Obama: “In the six-plus decades that this Security Council has been in existence, only four other meetings of this nature have been convened. I called for this one so that we may address, at the highest level, a fundamental threat to the security of all peoples and all nations: the spread and use of nuclear weapons.”
In Afghanistan, five US troops were killed Thursday in two southern provinces. Thirty-four US troops have been killed in Afghanistan this month. Last month was the deadliest month for the US, with fifty-one soldiers killed.
In Pakistan, at least four people were killed Thursday in a suspected US air strike. The attack reportedly struck a town in the North Waziristan tribal region. It comes as the US Senate has approved a measure that would triple Pakistan aid to $7.5 billion over five years.
The Senate Finance Committee has rejected a proposal that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to lower drug prices for elderly Americans under Medicare. The measure would have saved Medicare beneficiaries more than $100 billion over ten years. The Obama administration had opposed the proposal because it would have undercut a secretive deal with pharmaceutical companies to back healthcare reform. Three Democratic senators— Max Baucus of Montana, Thomas Carper of Delaware and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — joined with the finance panel’s Republican members to defeat the amendment by a 13-to-10 vote. Committee members meanwhile have put off debate on a public insurance option until next week.
A Colorado man jailed since last week has been charged with conspiring to launch a bomb attack inside the United States. Twenty-four-year-old Najibullah Zazi is accused of acquiring and preparing explosive materials similar to those used in the 2005 London transit bombings. Prosecutors say Zazi bought chemicals from beauty supply stores and experimented with preparing deadly explosives. It’s unclear if authorities believe Zazi intended to attack a specific target. Zazi was initially arrested along with his father and a New York imam on allegations of lying to federal agents. On Thursday, both the father and the imam were freed on bail. The imam, Ahmad Wais Afzali, denied the allegations against him.
Ahmad Wais Afzali: “As imam, it’s against Islamic law to hurt anybody, period. I am very much against this myself, very much against this. And the last time I saw Zazi was God knows how many years ago. That’s about it.”
In Honduras, the ousted President Manuel Zelaya says preliminary talks with the coup regime have gone nowhere. On Thursday, Zelaya said there is no chance of reaching an agreement with coup leaders and vowed to continue his attempt to return to office. Zelaya remains holed up inside the Brazilian embassy, surrounded by armed Honduran forces. In a separate interview, Zelaya accused the Honduran military of subjecting him and his supporters to toxic gases and radiation.
The White House is disavowing a top official’s promise to block a recent UN inquiry’s call that alleged Israeli war crimes be potentially referred to the International Criminal Court. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported this week a top White House official had made the promise in an off-the-record conversation with Jewish leaders. The official apparently said the administration would not allow the report’s recommendations to go beyond the UN Human Rights Council. A White House spokesperson later said the official had “misspoke.”
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was among the world leaders speaking Thursday at the UN General Assembly. Chavez invoked his 2006 speech in which he called former President George W. Bush a “devil” and said he now senses hope with President Obama in office. But Chavez criticized what he called the continued dominance of the Pentagon.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “The Pentagon, that is the imperialists’ cave. The Pentagon does not want Obama. They don’t want him. They don’t want change. They want world dominance with their military bases, their threats, their bombs, their invading soldiers.”
Chavez went on to criticize Obama’s recent UN address, saying plans for US military bases in Colombia contradict Obama’s stated commitment to peace.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: “He thinks of finding peace, his second pillar, with seven military bases in Colombia? Those seven bases are a threat to a possible peace in Colombia, if not peace in South America. We, the governments of South America, have reason to have expressed, in each our own way and intensity, our great worry over the installation of these seven American military bases on Colombian territory.”
The Obama administration has announced it’s begun direct engagement with the Burmese military junta in a push for democratic reforms. The US isn’t lifting sanctions, but says it will increase dialogue with junta members. The approach has drawn backing from leading Burmese democracy advocates, including the jailed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
A new study says global warming is increasing at a higher rate than previously thought. The United Nations Environment Program says researchers now predict the planet’s temperature will rise 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if the most ambitious proposals to address climate change are enacted. The temperature rise is two times higher than what scientists have previously identified as the maximum humans can afford to avert a climate disaster.
Back in the United States, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has named former Democratic National Committee chair Paul Kirk to the Senate seat vacated by the death of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Kirk was said to be the pick of Kennedy’s family. He will fill the seat until Massachusetts holds a special election in January.
And in California, thousands of professors, students and workers at all ten University of California campuses staged a protest Thursday against tuition hikes and cuts to education funding. Student tuition is set to rise as much as 32 percent over the next year. The statewide action came as most of the schools held their first day of classes.