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In brief: Iran’s president proposes Obama debate

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad proposed on Monday a face-to-face debate with President Barack Obama at the United Nations if he is re-elected next month as Iran’s president.

But he balanced the offer with a sharp rebuke to Washington and its allies over Iran’s nuclear program. He reiterated that Iran would never abandon its advances in uranium enrichment in exchange for offers of easing sanctions or other economic incentives.

The nuclear issue “is closed,” he told a news conference.

The tough talk on nuclear negotiations following Iran’s test last week of a long-range missile appear aimed at burnishing Ahmadinejad’s hard-line credentials in the election campaign against another conservative and two pro-reform candidates.

His offer of to debate Obama could also be campaign posturing before the June 12 vote.There was no immediate reaction from Washington.


Autoworkers vote for deal with GM

Canadian Auto Workers members voted 86 percent in favor of a cost-cutting deal with General Motors Canada as the automaker bids to qualify for more government loans and assure its future in Canada.

Union leader Ken Lewenza said his members had no choice but to vote for the deal.

“They understand the crisis in the auto industry,” Lewenza said in a telephone interview. “The vote shows that.”

Lewenza said the agreement allows GM Canada to meet the cost benchmarks set by the federal Canadian and provincial Ontario governments, namely making cuts to become competitive with non-unionized Toyota Canada. The deal also stipulates that GM’s car assembly and parts plants in Ontario will stay open.

Lewenza said there is little doubt that GM will file for bankruptcy in the United States and said there’s a real possibility it will do so in Canada.

“The integrity of our collective agreement will be protected,” Lewenza said. “Our members had really no choice but to vote for the collective agreement.”

According to the CAW, the tentative deal with GM Canada provides that the starting pay rate for new hires will be 70 percent of the established rate with increases of 5 percent per year for six years. New hires will be entitled to the same retiree health benefits, funded either through a new Health Care Trust or by the company.


Blast destroys sidewalk bench

An early morning explosion, caused by a small bomb and reminiscent of other mysterious blasts around the city in the last few years, destroyed a sidewalk bench and shattered windows in a Starbucks coffee shop.

No one was injured in the blast, which happened around 3:30 a.m. Monday on Manhattan’s Upper East Side near the Guggenheim museum.

Investigators were looking into the similarities between the explosion and three others in the last four years, police Commissioner Ray Kelly said.

Kelly said the explosive appeared to have been placed on the seat of the bench, but he didn’t know what kind of container it was in. He said investigators would examine the remains to determine what kind of explosive it was. He said it was possible that it was some kind of firework.

LAGOS, Nigeria

Militants destroy Chevron pipelines

Militants sabotaged major crude pipelines in Nigeria’s chaotic oil region on Monday, further trimming crude production as the military widened an operation to uproot the fighters.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said it had destroyed pipes run by Chevron Corp. before dawn in Delta State, where the military is carrying out its largest operation in years against militants.

Chevron confirmed an incident on its pipeline network and said it caused them to shut down operations totaling 100,000 barrels per day.

Military spokesman Col. Rabe Abubakar also confirmed the attack on the Chevron infrastructure, while saying armed forces had invaded a militant camp in nearby Rivers state.

But he said the fighting was minimal and didn’t think the military would send helicopter gunships and jet fighters against militants as they had done last week. The militants also said they had released three Filipino hostages seized this month.

From wire reports

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