HARI SREENIVASAN: Greece officially asked the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for a bailout from its debt crisis. The request triggers an emergency loan plan, with $40 billion from Eurozone partners and $20 billion from the IMF.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Greece has to establish a — quote — “credible savings program” before the money is paid out.
ANGELA MERKEL, German chancellor (through translator): I made clear that a decision on how and how much aid Athens will receive, as well as other questions, cannot be answered until the austerity plan is on the table. At the same time, a judgment by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund should make clear that it is all about the stability of the Eurozone.
HARI SREENIVASAN: But, in Washington, the head of the IMF vowed to move expeditiously on the request. Finance leaders from 20 nations were meeting at IMF headquarters and discussed ways to stop future debt crises.
A new wave of bombings swept across Iraq today, killing at least 69 people. As many as 10 of the blasts happened in Baghdad, targeting Shiite worshipers as they gathered for Friday prayers. The deadliest attack was near the main office of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The string of bombings comes just days after U.S. and Iraqi forces killed the top two al-Qaida leaders in Iraq.
A U.S. military judge cleared a second Navy SEAL of charges that he beat an Iraqi prisoner in 2004. Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Keefe was the second of three SEALs to face trial. The Iraqi man allegedly organized an attack in Fallujah that brutally killed four American security guards.
NATO ministers agreed to begin the process of handing over security duties to Afghan forces this year. Foreign ministers met today in Estonia and decided the process would be gradual and based on conditions on the ground. The group also appealed to allies for more personnel to train Afghan forces.
At a news conference in Estonia, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Taliban insurgency wouldn’t make that process easy.
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON, U.S. secretary of state: We believe that, with sufficient attention, training and mentoring, the Afghans themselves are perfectly capable of defending themselves against insurgents. Now, does that mean that it will be smooth sailing? I don’t think so.
HARI SREENIVASAN: President Obama has set a target date of July 2011 to start bringing U.S. troops home.
Also today, NATO officials in Afghanistan announced the deaths of two U.S. troops. They were killed in a gun battle with insurgents in the east.
A New York man pleaded guilty today to plotting to bomb New York City’s subway system last September. Zarein Ahmedzay admitted to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction and providing material support to al-Qaida. He is a former high school classmate of Najibullah Zazi, who pleaded guilty last month to his role in the same foiled terror plot. A third classmate is facing similar charges.
No oil appeared to be leaking from a drilling platform that exploded and sank in the Gulf Coast off Louisiana. That was the conclusion of Coast Guard officials today. Crews tried to contain a 10-mile-by-10-mile oil slick near where the platform sank yesterday. And BP, which leased the oil rig, worked to contain the spill. Meanwhile, the Coast Guard’s search for 11 missing workers went on, but hope dimmed that they would be found alive.
New home sales skyrocketed last month by 27 percent. Commerce Department figures for March showed it was the largest monthly increase in more than 40 years. Much of the surge was likely from homebuyers trying to qualify for federal tax credits that expire next week.
The home sales news sent stocks up on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 70 points to close at 11204. The Nasdaq rose 11 points to close at 2530. For the week, the Dow gained 1.7 percent; the Nasdaq rose 2 percent.
Those are some of the day’s main stories. I will be back at the end of the program with a preview of what you will find tonight on the NewsHour’s Web site — but, for now, back to Jeff.