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Thursday, July 06

Editor's Note: The CNN Wire is a running log of the latest news from CNN World Headquarters, reported by CNN's correspondents and producers, and The CNN Wire editors. "Posted" times are Eastern Daylight.

Conservative Calderon squeaks out win in Mexican presidential race

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- After four days of topsy-turvy uncertainty, conservative Felipe Calderon was declared the winner in Mexico's presidential election Thursday, with a recount giving the Harvard-educated economist a razor-thin victory over his leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

In his victory speech, Calderon appealed for national unity, saying "more than a candidate or a party won today."

"Mexico won today and the victory belongs to all," he said. "From this day on I call on everyone so that with generosity and patriotism, we can achieve the integration of a government based on national unity which I will head."

In a personal message to his main rival, Calderon reiterated his respect for Lopez Obrador and said he shares "his desire for justice" and vowed to work to help millions of impoverished Mexicans.

But Lopez Obrador, charging that there were irregularities in the vote count, vowed to fight the results in court, and he called for a massive demonstration by his supporters Saturday in Mexico City, where he was the popular mayor before seeking the presidency. (posted 12:25 a.m.)

Bushes sit down with Larry King for wide-ranging birthday interview

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Mired in some of the weakest approval ratings of his presidency, President Bush said Thursday that he isn't troubled by low poll numbers and that "when history looks back, I'd rather be judged as solving problems and being correct, rather than being popular."

"If you had a president who worries about polls, that means you could have a president who makes decisions based upon the polls," Bush told CNN's "Larry King Live" in an exclusive joint interview with his wife, Laura, at the White House. "The president that chases the opinion poll is the president that will have failed policy, in my judgment."

Although some lawmakers in Congress are nervous about the effect Bush's political problems might have on their own fortunes in this fall's mid-term elections, Bush predicted that Republicans would keep their majorities in the House and Senate.

"You know why? Because we're right on winning this war on terror, and we've got a good economic record," he said. "People are working under the leadership of the Bush administration and the Congress." (Posted 9:33 p.m.)

Iran negotiator: We're 'serious' about nuclear talks

(CNN) -- Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday in Brussels that his country is "serious" about talks with the European Union on its nuclear program, according to the EU press office.

But the Iranian official, who spoke before attending a working dinner with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, did not provide a response to the package of incentives offered by the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany.

A senior State Department official said that Solana spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice after the dinner. Solana told Rice his dinner with Larijani involved a "general discussion of the issue of Iran's nuclear program," the official said, adding that "no response to the P5 plus 1 proposal was given."

Solana and Larijani are expected to meet again on Tuesday before the ministers of the P5 and Germany meet the following day in Paris. (Posted 9:14 p.m.)

2 members of Tonga royal family killed in Calif. auto accident

(CNN) -- Two members of the Tongan royal family and another person were killed Thursday in a Menlo Park, Calif., traffic accident involving a teenager who may have been racing her car, California authorities said.

San Mateo County Deputy Coroner Kyle Scherrer said the names of the Tongan victims and other details would be released later after the Tongan government has completed its notification of next-of-kin.

Scherrer identified the third victim as Vinisia Hefa, 36, of Palo Alto, who was driving a 1998 Ford Explorer carrying the two Tongans.

The California Highway Patrol said the accident took place on US 101 when an 18-year-old woman driving a 1998 Ford Mustang -- traveling "at a reckless, high rate of speed" -- struck the driver's side of the Explorer while attempting to pass. (Posted 9:12 p.m.)

Ga. Supreme Court reinstates gay marriage ban

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Georgia's Supreme Court Thursday reinstated a state constitutional amendment that declares marriage the exclusive right of a man and a woman.

The amendment had been declared unconstitutional by a lower court in May.

The unanimous ruling pleased Gov. Sonny Perdue, who had vowed to call a special legislative session to create another amendment in time for this year's general election ballot if the high court did not act quickly.

Georgia voters approved the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 by a 3-to-1 margin. But gay rights and gay advocate groups filed suit, and the ruling striking down the law came May 17 in Fulton County Superior Court.

Judge Constance Russell found that the amendment violated the Georgia constitution by including more than one issue -- in addition to banning same-sex marriage in the state, it declared that the state would not recognize same-sex marriages or civil unions from other states. (Posted 7:34 p.m.)

Conservative Calderon squeaks out win in Mexican presidential race

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- After four days of topsy-turvy uncertainty, a recount gave conservative Felipe Calderon the victory in Mexico's presidential election Thursday, with final results showing the Harvard-educated economist with a razor-thin win over his leftist rival, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

But Lopez Obrador, charging that there were irregularities in the vote count, vowed to fight the results in court, and he called for a massive demonstration by his supporters Saturday in Mexico City, where he was the popular mayor before seeking the presidency.

After an around-the-clock recount of ballot tally sheets that began Wednesday morning, Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute issued final results Thursday afternoon showing Calderon, of the National Action Party, with 35.88 percent of the vote, compared to 35.31 percent for Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party. (Posted 7:29 p.m.)

Ex-soldier pleads not guilty in Iraqi killings

(CNN) -- Former U.S. soldier Steven Green appeared in a federal court in Louisville, Ky., Thursday to plead not guilty to charges he raped an Iraqi woman and murdered her and her family in March.

Green, 21, was transferred to Kentucky earlier Thursday from North Carolina, where he was arrested last week. During Green's initial appearance in court Thursday afternoon, U.S. Magistrate Judge James Moyer ordered him to remain in custody, said Marisa Ford, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. attorney's office in Louisville.

Green was a private first class with the 101st Airborne Division in March, when prosecutors say he shot and killed an Iraqi man, woman and child in the town of Mahmoudiya before raping a young woman from the same family and killing her. He was honorably discharged from the Army after being diagnosed with an unspecified personality disorder before the incident came to light, according to court papers filed last week. (Posted 6:54 p.m.)

DHS announces critical infrastructure grants

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Just weeks after New York-area lawmakers slammed the Department of Homeland Security for cutting grants to the region, the DHS Thursday announced a different set of grants that is likely to get a warmer reception.

The New York, New Jersey and Connecticut area is to get $53.8 million in transit security grants this year -- $10 million more than it received last year, Department of Homeland Security figures show.

The Washington area, which also complained of being shortchanged several weeks ago, will get $14.3 million in transit grants -- about $700,000 more than last year.

DHS officials said grants announced Thursday -- totaling $400 million nationwide -- are awarded on criteria that differ from those announced several weeks ago, and the uproar over the earlier grants played no role in this week's announcement. --From CNN Homeland Security Producer Mike M. Ahlers (Posted 6:11 p.m.)

New Canadian leader says Congress should rethink border ID requirement

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Making his first visit to the White House since winning power in January, Canada's new Conservative prime minister, Stephen Harper, urged Congress to "think again" about a law mandating passports or other secure forms of identification for people crossing the U.S.-Canada border starting in 2008.

Standing next to President Bush at a news conference, Harper said that while Canadians share U.S. concerns about the need for stronger borders, "if the fight for security ends up meaning that the United States becomes more closed to its friends, then the terrorists have won."

"I would hate to see a law go into place that has the effect of not just limiting or endangering trade or tourism but endangering all those thousands of social interactions that occur across our border every day and are the reason why Canada and the United States have the strongest relationship of any two countries -- not just on the planet, but in the history of mankind."

For his part, Bush said administration officials would work with the Canadians to ensure there is a "lot of flexibility and simplicity" in any identification system created for crossing the border. But he also said they had to operate on the assumption that Congress will not change the law. (Posted 5:40 p.m.)

Felipe Calderon declared winner in Mexico election

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- With a narrow lead, Felipe Calderon was declared the winner of the Mexican presidential election Thursday by the Federal Electoral Institute but his opponent, Andres Manual Lopez Obrador is challenging the results.

Obrador the leftist presidential candidate, cited voting irregularities and demanded a manual recount, asserting he would take his case to the Electoral Tribunal in Mexico.

He has a four-day window to bring his complaints to the court, and he confirmed that would be his next move after he heard the official outcome.

The Electoral Tribunal will have until August 23 to review Obrador's challenge and until Sept. 6 to certify a winner. (Updated 5:03 p.m.)

New Jersey state budget agreement reached; state government to reopen

TRENTON, N.J. (CNN) -- New Jersey lawmakers reached an agreement on the state budget Thursday afternoon, permitting the state government to reopen after a six-day shutdown, the governor said.

Government services closed by the lack of a state budget will resume operations within 36 hours, after the bill has passed both houses, Gov. Jon Corzine said.

"This must absolutely not happen again," he said.

Under the new fiscal year 2007 budget, homeowners will receive $500 million in property tax relief and there will be a constitutional amendment on the ballot in November that would allow $1 billion to go to such relief, he announced.

The state sales tax was central to the budget debate. Corzine pushed for the increase, while Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts strongly opposed it. Both are Democrats. --From CNN's Katy Byron (Posted 4:57 p.m.)

Iran negotiator: We're 'serious' about nuclear talks

(CNN) -- Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani said Thursday that his country is "serious" about talks with the European Union on its nuclear program, according to the EU press office.

Larijani spoke before a dinner meeting with the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana. The two will discuss a proposal to give Iran economic, technical and political incentives if it halts uranium enrichment.

"We are serious about continuing negotiations. And we are going to start next Tuesday our talks," he said.

The EU high representative spoke to Larijani on the telephone Wednesday, and they agreed to a second discussion Tuesday.

"I'm looking forward to getting this process going, that we think is going to be beneficial for both sides, for the European Union and many countries of the world and for Iran," Solana said. "We are going to work. We are not going to talk much (to the press): We are going to work." (Posted 4:20 p.m.)

DeLay must remain on November ballot, judge says

(CNN) -- Texas Republicans say they'll appeal a Thursday ruling that bars them from replacing former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on the November congressional ballot despite his decision to give up his Houston-area seat.

DeLay won the party's nomination for a new term in March, but announced in April that he would abandon his re-election bid and resign from Congress. In an effort to keep his seat in Republican hands, he announced that he was changing his legal residence to Virginia -- a move he said would disqualify him from November's race and allow the GOP to pick a new nominee.

But Thursday's decision by Austin-based U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks found that DeLay in effect withdrew from the race, and Texas law prohibits the party from replacing a candidate under those circumstances. (Updated 4:19 p.m.)

Palestinian interior minister tells security forces to fight Israeli army; unclear how many will respond

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The Hamas-led Palestinian government -- which has accused Israel of trying to destroy it -- called on its security forces Thursday to join the fight against the Israeli military in Gaza.

Palestinian Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Abu Hilal said orders had been given to all Palestinian security forces to join the resistance and fight the Israelis.

It was unclear, however, how many of those forces would answer the call. Most of the Palestinian security forces in Gaza are loyal to the Fatah Party of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, not to the Hamas Interior Minister Saeed Siyyam.

Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian legislator and aide to Abbas, told CNN that Abbas was not involved in the call to security forces.

In past fights, Palestinian security forces have been sidelined for the most part while the Israeli military battled Palestinian militants. (Posted 3 p.m.)

Survey: Smoking rate among high schoolers stalled at 23 percent

ATLANTA (CNN) -- Nearly one in four high school students were smokers last year, a rate that has not budged in several years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.

The CDC's National Youth Risk Behavior Surveys said last year's figure of 23 percent is the most current available.

From 1991 to 1997, smoking among high schoolers increased from 27.5 percent to 36.4 percent, the survey said.

Though the rate fell each year from 1997 until 2003, it has remained stalled at 23 percent since then. (Posted 2:57 p.m.)_

Leftist candidate says he'll challenge vote count if opponent declared winner in tight race

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- Leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador balked at Mexico's election results showing conservative Felipe Calderón narrowly in the lead Thursday and said in a news briefing he would legally challenge the vote count if that result stands.

With nearly 98 percent of the vote counted, Calderón had 35.81 percent, compared to 35.39 percent for Lopez Obrador. A number of other candidates split the remaining vote, but none were within striking distance of the front-runners.

Both candidates have claimed victory and have suggested there has been vote manipulation in the razor-thin race.

Each candidate has until next Thursday to challenge the result. The Electoral Tribunal would then have until August 23 to review any challenges and until Sept. 6 to name a new president. (Posted 2:45 p.m.)

Navy moves carrier early from Persian Gulf to Pacific

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier on patrol in the waters south of Iraq is being moved into the Pacific for exercises, cutting short its duty in the region by several weeks, according to Pentagon officials.

The USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered carrier, left its post in the Persian Gulf on Thursday to move its fighter aircraft and support ships to the Pacific in a long-planned move that will have the ship participating in a large-scale, multinational naval exercise off Hawaii, according to Pentagon officials.

Pentagon officials said the movement of the ships is coincidental to the timing of the North Korean missile volley, and is not in reaction to the launches. --From CNN Pentagon Producer Mike Mount (Posted 2:23 p.m.)

Bush says U.S. wants to solve North Korean missile issue diplomatically

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush said Thursday the United States wants to resolve the issue of North Korea's test missile launchings in a diplomatic manner.

"The best way to solve this problem diplomatically is for all of us to be working in concert and to send one message and that is -- to Kim Jong Il -- that, 'We expect you to adhere to international norms, and we expect you to keep your word,'" said Bush in a news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

One way to send that message, the president said, is through the United Nations.

"And the Japanese laid down a resolution which we support. But we're working with our partners to make sure we speak with one voice," Bush said.

He cautioned, however, that diplomacy takes time. (Posted 12:34 p.m.)

Florida Supreme Court upholds lower court ruling throwing out $145 billion award in smokers trial

(CNN) -- The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that threw out a $145 billion verdict in a class-action suit filed against Big Tobacco in 2000, calling it excessive, but it upheld many of the findings of the original jury.

"This is a fabulous decision," said Richard Daynard, head of the Tobacco Products Liability Project at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston, and an anti-smoking crusader.

"It basically upholds the findings of the jury, and it provides a simplified procedure for every citizen of Florida who either has gotten a tobacco-caused disease or is the heir to somebody who had gotten a tobacco-caused disease and died to come in and bring an action and recover (an award) essentially by showing that their tobacco-caused disease, their injury or death, was caused by their smoking."

Daynard said the ruling "provides a very simple procedure for potentially hundreds of thousands of people to file in Florida, and for potentially doing that in other states."

Asked why tobacco stocks were surging in response to the ruling, he said, "Because they don't understand what the case is about. It's that simple." Nobody had expected the $145 billion award would stand, he said. (Posted 11:57 a.m.)

Iraqi PM says he is to start talks with coalition over how to prevent U.S. troop misconduct against Iraqi civilians

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's prime minister said Thursday he is about to start talks with coalition authorities over how to prevent violence by U.S. troops against Iraqi civilians.

Nuri al-Maliki, back in Iraq after a trip to Persian Gulf states, where he touted his national reconciliation plan, made reference to the killing of a family of four civilians and the rape of one of them in the Mahmoudiya area, a perilous part of Babil province south of Baghdad.

A former U.S. soldier, Steven D. Green, has been charged in the incident -- which allegedly took place March 12 -- and others could face charges as well.

Reiterating remarks he made in Kuwait on Wednesday, al-Maliki described the Mahmoudiya incident as sad and painful and said the issue of immunity for coalition troops under Iraqi law needs to be reviewed. (Posted 11:53 a.m.)

U.S. eyes North Korean activity but officials say no launch imminent

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials said on Thursday they are watching activity in North Korea to see if Pyongyang is preparing for a second long-range Taepodong missile test.

But the officials, who have access to intelligence reports, tell CNN no test seems imminent.

"We see no indications, nothing is imminent," said one defense official, referring to reports that North Korea was readying a second missile for possible launch.

On Wednesday, NBC quoted U.S. officials as saying it appeared that North Korea was making preparations to launch another Taepodong missile."

"I wouldn't call that a true statement," the official said in response to the NBC report. --From CNN Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre and State Department Producer Elise Labott (Posted 11:17 a.m.)

Islamist Web message said to be from an al-Zarqawi widow

(CNN) -- Islamist Web sites have posted a message that claims to be from a widow of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a resolute missive that pledges loyalty to Osama bin Laden and support for Islamic militants.

The authenticity of the message, said to be from Um Mohammed, can't be verified. It surfaced Wednesday on the Internet, nearly one month after the wanted leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was killed in a U.S. airstrike near the Iraqi city of Baquba.

The statement addressed bin Laden, expressing appreciation for his videotaped condolences on her husband's death, and pledging her allegiance and obedience to his leadership. Bin Laden issued his condolences in a Web message last week.

This recent Web message urges Muslim fighters to renew their loyalty to bin Laden, join the fight and battle anywhere the leadership needs them. --From CNN Senior Editor for Arab Affairs Octavia Nasr (Posted 11:09 a.m.)

Israeli troops encounter fierce fighting in Gaza operations

GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Israeli troops encountered intense fighting Thursday as they staged military operations in northern and southern Gaza, attempting to stop Palestinian rocket attacks and free kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

There were conflicting death tolls but it appeared that as many as 12 Palestinians may have died in the fighting. The Israel Defense Forces said one Israeli soldier was killed.

Meanwhile, the father of the kidnapped soldier called on both sides to start talking.

In the worst single incident, Palestinian security and medical sources said six Palestinians were killed at Beit Lahya, where Israeli forces launched an aerial strike against militants.

The Israel Defense Forces put the number killed at five. (Posted 11:04 a.m.)

New Jersey enters 6th day of government shutdown with no resolution

TRENTON, N.J. (CNN) -- As New Jersey entered its sixth day of a government shutdown brought on by the lack of a budget, Gov. Jon Corzine, in his third speech speech to the State Assembly in as many days, called the situation "deplorable" and sternly pleaded with members to deliver a budget to him "today."

The governor pointed out he could not pass, veto, or amend a budget that does not exist and announced "yet another compromise" he worked on through the night that would allot billions of dollars for property tax relief over the next 10 years.

He called upon the assembly to, "stop posturing ... stop playing on politics of fear." "If you're trying to get out of a hole, why don't you just stop digging?" Corzine said, quoting his father, saying the assembly's inability to come up with a budget plan since his proposal was shot down 107 days ago has put the people of New Jersey in a hole.

The shutdown, which has resulted in the closure of all "non-essential" government offices, began after the failure to adopt a new budget by the constitutional deadline last Friday. --From CNN's Lia Araujo (Posted 10:53 a.m.)

London suicide bomber: 'What you saw was just the beginning'

LONDON (CNN) -- A message from one of the four suicide bombers who launched the subway attacks in London last year promised more violence, according to a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera on the eve of the anniversary of last year's deadly strike.

"What you saw was just the beginning," said suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer, 22, who delivered his last will and testament in English. "More attacks are yet to come." He was killed in the attack.

CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen said the latest video is more evidence that "the London attacks were a classic al Qaeda operation and not the work of self-starting terrorists as has been repeatedly suggested in the media."

The message bears an animated graphic of As Sahab, the al Qaeda video production arm. The tape was announced on Wednesday night and aired Thursday on the Arabic-language channel.

The video shows how the al Qaeda groups claim they planned for the attacks, including some chemical tests and field training. (Posted 10:21 a.m.)

2 Palestinians killed in IAF raid at Beit Lahiya

BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza (CNN) -- Two Palestinians were killed Thursday in an Israeli Air Force raid here, Palestinians sources said.

The Israel Defense Forces said the IAF had carried out an aerial attack against three militants in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.

Palestinian medical and security sources said the two deaths bring to 11 the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza Thursday. (Posted 9:42 a.m.)

British defense secretary considering troop hike in Afghanistan

LONDON (CNN) -- Britain's defense secretary told members of Parliament Thursday that he is pondering an increased troop deployment in Afghanistan, where fighting has escalated between coalition and Afghan forces and Taliban militants.

"I can now confirm that today I have received advice on additional deployment, and I am considering it, as a matter of urgency, with the Chiefs of Staff," Des Browne said, according to a Press Association report.

There are about 4,000 British troops now deployed Afghanistan, with 3,200 of them in Helmand province in the south. Browne said he will tell the House of Commons about his decision as soon as possible.

"This House will be the first to know, but will also understand that there is a proper process to these decisions, and it would be entirely inappropriate and unhelpful, particularly to those who are in theatre, to discuss further detail until that process is complete," Browne is quoted as saying.

Thirteen British troops, including one this week, have died since the coalition toppled the Taliban government in late 2001. (Posted 9:21 a.m.)

NY's highest court says state does not have to allow same-sex marriages

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York's highest court ruled on Thursday that the state does not have to allow same-sex couples to marry.

The ruling said only the state legislature, and not the courts, can give that right.

As in the case of Massachusetts, the only state that has allowed same-sex marriages, the ruling was a reaction to a challenge to the state constitution that argued gay couples were being denied equal rights. The 44 plaintiffs had been refused marriage licenses by local clerks because they were couples of the same gender.

The state argued that it had a compelling interest in preserving marriage as the union of a man and woman because ideally, traditional families should be the ones to procreate and care for children. The state said that any change in that practice should be addressed by the legislature and not the courts.

The court's decision said: "Our conclusion that there is a rational basis for limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples leads us to hold that that limitation is valid under the New York due process and equal protection clauses, and that any expansion of the traditional definition of marriage should come from the Legislature." --From CNN's Rose Arce (Posted 9:20 a.m.)

Baghdad raid nets 7 suspected terrorists, weapons, and videos showing torture

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- An early morning raid in southern Baghdad Thursday netted seven suspected terrorists, a number of weapons, bomb-making materials and videotapes showing people being tortured, the U.S. military announced.

Iraqi police and Multi-National Division Baghdad soldiers searched a house in the al-Dura neighborhood, suspected of being used by rooftop snipers. Four people inside the house were arrested by Iraqi police after an AK-47, a sniper rifle, and ammunition were found on the rooftop.

Two other AK-47s were found inside the house.

At a nearby site, soldiers found two weapons caches which included bomb-making materials and videotapes showing tortures and mortars being launched.

A bomb squad destroyed all the munitions found at the sites.

The news release did not give any details about the other three arrests. (Posted, 4:22 a.m.)

Fighting in southeastern Afghanistan kills 1 soldier; Afghan girl injured

(CNN) -- A coalition soldier was killed Wednesday in an attack in southeastern Afghanistan, the U.S. military announced Thursday.

The fighting in Paktika province also wounded a 10-year-old Afghan girl, who was treated at a coalition medical facility and is in stable condition after surgery, according to the military statement.

Coalition soldiers were on patrol when a group of extremists fired on them in Paktika's Gayan district, the military said. (Posted, 4:05 a.m.)

Pyongyang defends missile launches

SEOUL (CNN) -- North Korea Thursday defended a series of missile launches a day earlier, calling them a "legitimate right as a sovereign state," a Foreign Ministry spokesman said, according to the state-run news agency KCNA.

"The latest successful missile launches were part of the routine military exercises staged by the KPA (Korean People's Army) to increase the nation's military capacity for self-defense," the spokesman said.

Pyongyang launched seven missiles over a 14-hour period Wednesday, breaking its own moratorium on such launches.

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday began considering a draft resolution that could would impose sanctions on the Communist nation's missile program.

The spokesman said North Korea will continue with the program, issuing a warning to any country that might want to interfere.

North Korea "will have no option but to take stronger physical actions of other forms, should any other country dares take issue with the exercises and put pressure upon it," the statement said. (Posted, 3 a.m.)

Police: Car bomb detonates in southern Iraq; 11 killed, mostly Iranian pilgrims

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A car bomb detonated Thursday in the southern Iraqi town of Kufa near a Shiite mosque, killing 11 and wounding 51 others, Iraqi police said.

Most of the casualties were Iranian Shiite pilgrims who were boarding several buses outside the Maytham al-Tammar mosque when the explosion happened, police said.

Kufa is right outside Najaf, which is about 100 miles (160 km) south of Baghdad.

Kufa -- along with Samarra, Karbala, and Najaf -- is considered a holy place by Shia Muslims.-- From CNN's Arwa Damon (Posted, 2:27 a.m.)

Calderon takes lead from Lopez Orbrador in Mexico's presidential race

MEXICO CITY (CNN) -- By a razor-thin margin, conservative candidate Felipe Calderon took the lead over leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico's contentious presidential election early Thursday.

With nearly 98 percent of the vote counted, Calderon had 35.6 percent, compared to 35.59 percent for Lopez Obrador. A number of other candidates split the remaining vote, but none were within striking distance of the front-runners.

On Sunday, the head of the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) said the election was too close to call, launching Wednesday's official tabulation of the votes from the country's 300 voting districts.

The Electoral Council is to convene Sunday to review the results of the process.

Theoretically, an official result could be announced as early as Sunday, though each candidate has until the following Thursday to challenge the result. (Updated, 5:55 a.m.)

Nations condemn North Korean missile tests

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- U.N. Security Council members on Wednesday denounced North Korea's missile test-launches and began considering a draft resolution that would impose sanctions on the Communist nation's missile program.

No action was taken, but the diplomats and technical experts are to meet again Thursday to hash over language of the resolution behind closed doors.

After the initial discussions, China and Russia expressed the desire for a weaker council statement -- something that would avoid sanctions and the weight of international law.

For the resolution to pass, Russia, China and the three other permanent council members must approve it, along with at least nine other members. (Posted 11:20 p.m.)

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