Ahmadinejad gets endorsement
Iran’s supreme leader appears to have strongly endorsed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for a second term as president, a development sure to unsettle Iranian liberals and Western officials hoping for an end to his term in elections next spring.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the cleric who is Iran’s ultimate authority on matters of religion and security, told Iranian officials to begin planning for another four-year term, Iranian state media reported Monday.
“Do not think that this year is your final year,” Khamenei told Cabinet ministers Saturday, according to a report by the official Islamic Republic News Agency. “In other words, imagine that in addition to this year, another four years will be under your management, and plan and act accordingly.”
Rice acknowledges hurdles to peace
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged Monday that a broad peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians is a long shot before President Bush leaves office, but she rejected the idea of a half-measure now.
“I think it’s extremely important just to keep making forward progress, rather than trying prematurely to come to some set of conclusions,” Rice said, dismissing speculation she wants both sides to sign on to a statement documenting their progress nine months into a secretive and publicly fruitless series of talks.
In contrast to her past upbeat insistence that public silence masked private progress, Rice had a matter-of-fact assessment ahead of two days of meetings with negotiators and leaders on both sides.
“Obviously it’s a complicated time, but it’s always complicated out here,” she said in a news conference aboard her plane. She gave no prognosis for U.S.-backed talks that have failed to yield obvious successes or much public confidence. Israeli newspapers barely cover Rice’s frequent visits now.
Wellington, New Zealand
Temblor causes minor damage
A magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocked New Zealand’s North Island region of Hawkes Bay, a geological agency reported early today.
The quake hit late Monday night and was centered six miles southwest of the city of Hastings, New Zealand geological agency GNS Science reported on its Web site. It was followed 10 minutes later by a magnitude-3.5 aftershock.
Radio callers reported homes being jolted, some broken windows and pictures shaken off walls.
New Zealand sits above an area of the Earth’s crust where the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates are colliding and records more than 14,000 earthquakes a year – but only about 150 are felt by residents. Fewer than 10 a year do any damage.
From wire reports