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Sunday, March 25

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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 Time.

Earthquake aftershocks rattle west-central Japan

TOKYO (CNN) -- Aftershocks rattled central Japan Monday afternoon, a day after a deadly 6.7-magnitude earthquake struck off the country's west coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The 4.7-magnitude quake followed two stronger aftershocks that hit Sunday night and Monday morning. The earlier aftershocks measured 5.5 and 5.1.

Sunday's initial quake left one woman dead and several others injured.

The epicenters of all four temblors have been 40 to 50 miles northwest of Kanazawa. (Posted 2:50 a.m.)

Edwards, wife defend continuing White House bid

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democratic presidential contender John Edwards and his cancer-stricken wife Elizabeth defended their decision to continue his White House bid Sunday, but the former senator said voters have legitimate questions about the decision to keep running.

"I think every single candidate for President, Republican and Democratic have lives, personal lives, that indicate something about what kind of human being they are. And I think it is a fair evaluation for America to engage in, to look at what kind of human beings each of us are, and what kind of president we'd make," Edwards, the party's 2004 vice-presidential nominee, told CBS' "60 Minutes."

Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with breast cancer at the end of the 2004 campaign and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. But Thursday, the couple disclosed that cancer had spread to her bones -- a condition doctors described as incurable, but treatable.

John Edwards said that he and his wife "have every reason to be optimistic" about her condition, and doctors have said she could participate in the campaign. And Elizabeth Edwards said, "You really have two choices here. I mean, either you push forward with the things that you were doing yesterday, or you start dying." (Posted 9:38 p.m.)

GOP senators question Gonzales' candor on prosecutors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A leading Republican senator Sunday questioned whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales "has been candid" about the firings of eight U.S. attorneys.

Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking GOP member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press" that Gonzales would have the chance to "present his case" to the committee next week. Two other Republican lawmakers -- Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, and Chuck Hagel, of Nebraska -- also expressed doubt about Gonzales' credibility Sunday.

Gonzales told reporters March 13 that he "was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was going on." But documents released Friday night show Gonzales attended one meeting in late November where the firings were discussed.

President Bush has said he stands solidly behind Gonzales, who served as White House counsel before becoming attorney general in 2005. And Utah Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" that Gonzales has described the November session as a "general meeting -- it wasn't about specifics."

"I don't think his comments are inconsistent at all," said Hatch, a former Judiciary Committee chairman. "I think people are trying to make them inconsistent." (Posted 8:30 p.m.)

Rebels bomb air base in Sri Lankan capital

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (CNN) -- Tamil Tiger rebels used two light aircraft to bomb and strafe an air force base next to Colombo International Airport, killing two airmen and wounding 10 others, a spokesman for the group's political wing told CNN.

In a statement issued from the rebel stronghold of Kilinochchi in the Wanni region in northern Sri Lanka, spokesman S.P. Tamilsevlan said the rebels were targeting Russian-made MiG and Israeli-made Kfir aircraft so that they would not be able to attack Tamil Tiger positions. Both planes, which dropped four bombs, returned to their bases intact, he said.

But they failed to hit their targets; the attackers hit instead a military hangar, slightly damaging two helicopters and setting the hangar afire, a Sri Lankan military source said. The blaze was quickly extinguished.

There was no damage to the civilian side of the airport, which is separated from the air force base by a runway. But authorities halted incoming and outgoing flights for several hours after the attack, which occurred at 12:45 a.m. (3:15 p.m. ET), the source said. (Posted 7:45 p.m.)

Passengers' fall vexes cruise line officials

HOUSTON (CNN) -- Cruise line officials were trying Sunday to figure out how two passengers managed to fall at least 50 feet from a ship balcony them into the Gulf of Mexico, where they were rescued hours later. "You cannot just fall off a ship," said Princess Lines' spokeswoman Julie Benson, describing the occurrence as "extremely rare ... this hasn't happened to Princess, that I can recall."

The 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman -- who have not been identified publicly other than as Americans -- fell at about 1:30 a.m., 150 miles from Galveston, Benson said. They were recovering Sunday with minor injuries in the medical center aboard the Grand Princess, a spokeswoman for Princess Cruises told CNN. "They're being watched and treated for their injuries," which include hypothermia from the 71-degree water, Benson said. (Posted: 6:49 p.m.)

Survey: gas prices up 6 cents per gallon, to $2.61

CAMARILLO, Calif. (CNN) -- Gas prices rose nearly 6 cents per gallon of self-serve regular during the past two weeks, to $2.61, a survey said Sunday. That's less than a third of the 20-cent-per-gallon increase that occurred during the prior two weeks, and may indicate prices are leveling off, said Trilby Lundberg, publisher of the "Lundberg Survey," which tallies prices at about 5,000 gas stations every two or three weeks.

Sunday's results were based on surveys taken March 23 and March 9. Lundberg credited the 5.57-cent increase on slightly higher crude oil prices and continued lower activity at refineries as they undertake seasonal repairs. (Posted: 4:07 p.m.)

Roadside bombs kill 5 U.S. soldiers in Iraq Sunday

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Two roadside bomb attacks killed five U.S. soldiers in Iraq Sunday, according to the U.S. military. Four Task Force Lightning Soldiers were killed and two others were wounded when a bomb exploded near their patrol in Diyala Province, the military said.

Another U.S. soldier was killed and two others were wounded when by a roadside bomb blast in northwest Baghdad, the military said. The soldier was involved in a route-clearance mission, the military said. The names of the dead have not been released.

The death toll for U.S. military personnel in the 4-year-old Iraq war is 3,240. (Posted: 4:06 p.m.)

Bolton denies pre-war White House cast Iraq threat as 'imminent'

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Sunday that, prior to the Iraq war, President Bush did not give the impression that a threat from Saddam Hussein was imminent.

But transcripts from the president and other administration officials, including spokesmen for him at the time, contradict that.

"The president never made the argument that he (Hussein) constituted an imminent threat," Bolton told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" about the former Iraqi leader's alleged stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, which were never found. (Posted: 3:09 p.m.)

Iran's president calls UN sanctions vote ^'illegal,' warns supporters will 'suffer'

TEHRAN (CNN) -- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Sunday that the resolution passed Saturday by the United Nations Security Council to impose new sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program is illegal, according to IRNA, the state-run Iranian news agency.

Ahmadinejad, in an interview with France's Channel 2 TV network, warned that those nations "seeking to impose sanctions against Iran will suffer a greater damage themselves," IRNA reported. The Iranian president told the French interviewer that his country's nuclear activities are "quite legal." (Posted: 2:52 p.m.)

Iraqi soldiers battle insurgents in Sunni section of Baghdad

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- A battle between insurgents and the Iraqi Army erupted Sunday in a Sunni section of central Baghdad, with the U.S. military called in to provide air support during the hour-long firefight, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said. The fighting began at around 1:30 p.m. when insurgents attacked an Army checkpoint near a market in the al-Fadhil district, the official said.

At least two civilians were killed and four people were wounded, including two Iraqi soldiers, the official said. The streets are narrow in the al-Fadhil district, one of Baghdad's oldest neighborhoods. It has frequently been a battleground between Sunni insurgents and Iraqi security forces. (Posted: 12:33 p.m.)

Blair: Iran's capture of Brits 'unjustified and wrong'

BERLIN (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Sunday that Iran's seizure of 15 British troops last Friday was "unjustified and wrong" because there is "no doubt" they were not in Iranian waters.

On Saturday, Iran's semi-official FARS News Agency reported the eight Royal Marines and seven Royal Navy Sailors were taken to Tehran to explain their "aggressive behavior," and that they confessed to trespassing into Iranian waters.

But Blair told reporters that was not the case. "There is no doubt at all that these people were taken from the boat in Iraqi water," he said after a European Union summit. "It simply is not true that they went into Iranian territorial waters." Blair said he hoped the matter could be resolved "over the next few days." (Posted: noon)

U.N. head won't meet with Hamas Rice also in region for shuttle diplomacy

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Sunday he will not meet with leaders of Hamas during his visit to the region because "the political atmosphere is not fully ripe." The statement had major repercussions for a new Palestinian unity government trying to achieve international legitimacy.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was also in the Mideast for shuttle diplomacy between Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and in keeping with U.S. policy, would not meet with Hamas.

The group's militant wing has carried out numerous terrorist attacks killing hundreds of Israeli civilians and others. Last year, Hamas won Palestinian elections, ending decades of rule by the Fatah party. It put Hamas in control of the parliament and the prime ministership, although Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas maintained the title of president. (Posted: 11:42 a.m.)

2 passengers rescued after falling off cruise ship

HOUSTON (CNN) -- More than four hours after two passengers fell from a cruise ship into the Gulf of Mexico, they were rescued Sunday about 150 miles off Galveston, authorities said.

The 22-year-old man and 20-year-old woman apparently fell from a cabin balcony on the Grand Princess at about 1:30 a.m., eight hours after the ship left the Galveston port, said Julie Benson, spokeswoman for Princess Cruises.

"When alerted to this, the ship stopped, initiated an emergency search operation, and returned to the position where the overboard incident was initially reported," Benson said, adding that the ship turned around and headed back within 10 minutes of getting word.

"Rescue boats were launched from Grand Princess, and the U.S. Coast Guard was notified," she said. A cruise ship rescue boat pulled one passenger from the water at 5:30 a.m. and the second was rescued a half-hour later, Benson said. They were not wearing life jackets, she said. The passengers were in "fairly good condition" and were being examined by the cruise ship's medical staff, Benson said. (Posted: 11:40 a.m.)

Earthquake aftershock strikes off Japanese coast

TOKYO (CNN) -- Central Japan got a second jolt Sunday when a 5.5 magnitude aftershock struck off the country's west coast hours after a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the same region, data from the U.S. Geological Survey showed.

The aftershock was recorded striking Sunday at 6:11 p.m. (5:11 a.m. ET) about 50 miles north of Kanazawa.

It followed an earlier earthquake centered at Hokuriku that left one woman dead and several injured.

A task force was formed to assess the damage caused.

The National Earthquake Information Center under the USGS said the earthquake's epicenter was located 50 miles north of Kanazawa, and 205 miles northwest of Tokyo. (Posted 6:52 a.m.)

U.N. Security Council approves new sanctions for Iran, Tehran not happy

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Iran's foreign minister rejected a unanimous vote by the 15-member U.N. Security Council Saturday to impose new sanctions on Iran because of its refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program.

Speaking in measured tones after the vote, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said, "Iran presents no threat to international peace and security, and therefore falls outside the council's charter mandate."

Mottaki spoke in place of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was unable to travel to New York for the vote on Resolution 1747 because his flight crew did not receive their U.S. visas in time.

The U.S. State Department issued a collective statement from the five permanent members of the council -- plus Germany, with the support of Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief.

Despite Iran's objections, "we stand by our suspension for suspension proposal," which stipulates if Iran allows the IAEA to verify it has suspended its nuclear program the Security Council will suspend talks on the program and end its enforced measures -- such as trade suspensions -- that were adopted under the appropriate resolutions. (Posted 6:24 a.m.)

Moscow club fire kills 10 patrons

MOSCOW (CNN) -- Ten nightclub patrons died from carbon dioxide poisoning after a fire broke out in Moscow's historic Lenkom Theatre early Sunday, Russia's Interfax news agency reported, citing the Moscow fire department.

About 150 people were evacuated and four were hospitalized for injuries after the blaze started at around 3 a.m. on the first floor.

It ravaged about 100 meters of the club before firefighters gained control of the blaze and put it out at 4:40 a.m., fire officials told Interfax.

The Moscow prosecutor's office has launched an investigation on whether safety regulations were violated through negligence.

The Moscow Lenkom Theatre is located downtown on Malaya Dmitrovka street and is a popular destination for locals and tourists. (Posted 3:14 a.m.)

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