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News Wrap: Bahraini Shiites Seek U.S. Help in Quest for More Political Freedom

March 7, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
In other news Monday, protests continued in Bahrain and Yemen, and American Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Afghans that the U.S. is not interested in keeping bases there permanently.
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Demonstrations flared in Bahrain today, as hundreds of members of the Shiite Muslim majority protested outside the U.S. embassy. They appealed to the U.S. to support their campaign for more political freedom.

To the south, in Yemen, President Ali Abdullah Saleh called for a national conference to help calm the unrest in his nation. But the opposition insisted no such talks will take place until Saleh agrees to step down.

Defense Secretary Gates told Afghans today the U.S. is not interested in keeping bases there permanently. During his unannounced visit, Gates met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and discussed the U.S. troop drawdown set to start this July. And, by 2014, the U.S. expects Afghans to be responsible for their own security.

At a news conference in Kabul, Gates also apologized for a NATO airstrike that accidentally killed Afghan children last week.

ROBERT GATES, U.S. Secretary of Defense: I would like to begin by joining General Petraeus in offering my personal apology for the accidental killing of nine Afghan boys by coalition forces last week.

This breaks our heart. Not only is their loss a tragedy for their families; it is a setback for our relationship with the Afghan people, whose security is our chief concern.

HARI SREENIVASAN: President Karzai accepted the apology, but pleaded with the U.S. to avoid similar attacks in the future.

AFGHANISTAN PRESIDENT HAMID KARZAI: We, the Afghan people, are allies with the rest of the world in the war on terror. We are victims in the war on terror. So, for us, then, to continue to suffer civilian casualties is something that we face during this time and becomes a major issue of grief and — and disappointment.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The growing civilian casualties drew hundreds of protesters into the streets of central Kabul yesterday. They carried photos of those killed in the most recent airstrikes, and burned an effigy of President Obama.

Clashes in Ivory Coast spread and intensified today. Three people were killed and 30 wounded in a rebel attack on a village outside Abidjan on the coast. Meanwhile, on the border with Liberia, rebels also seized control of a 30-mile corridor. It’s all a part of a political standoff between incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, who won last November’s election. U.N. officials announced over the weekend they are sending an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to reinforce the 8,000 already on the ground.

The Supreme Court ruled today that a man on death row in Texas could seek new DNA testing for his case. Hank Skinner wants to test crime scene evidence that he believes will exonerate him of a triple murder in 1993. In a 6-3 ruling, justices found that prisoners can use a federal civil rights law to seek genetic testing that wasn’t performed before they were convicted. But the decision didn’t rule on the merits of Skinner’s care — case, merely on a narrow procedural point.

Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada will not run for reelection when his current term expires. He made the announcement in Las Vegas, and said he was putting his family ahead of his career. In 2009, Ensign admitted he had an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer and helped her husband get lobbying work. But Ensign said a Senate Ethics Committee investigation into his actions didn’t factor into his decision to retire.

Stocks fell on Wall Street and around the world on fears the unrest in Libya could drive oil prices even higher. On Wall Street today, the Dow Jones industrial average lost 80 points to close at 12090. The Nasdaq fell 39 points to close at 2745.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.