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News Wrap: October the Deadliest Month in Afghan War

October 27, 2009 at 12:00 AM EDT
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In other news, October officially became the deadliest month for U.S. forces in Afghanistan since the start of the war in 2001, and in Iraq a deal that would have cleared the way for national elections has dissolved.

JIM LEHRER: And, in other news today, October officially became the deadliest month for U.S. forces in the entire Afghan war. The death toll rose to 55 when eight Americans were killed in Kandahar Province in separate bombing attacks.

In Washington, Republican Sen. John McCain said it’s more and more critical now that President Obama decide quickly about sending more troops.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-Ariz.: Every day that goes by without that decision being made, the more days there are where young Americans are unnecessarily in harm’s way, in my view. So, the events of the last couple of days, I believe, lend some urgency to this process.

JIM LEHRER: White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said today the president has nearly finished gathering information. Gibbs said he will take some time now to sort through it all.

Meanwhile, a former U.S. Marine captain, Matthew Hoh, became the first U.S. official to resign in protest over the war. The Washington Post reported he quit his diplomatic post last month, saying the fighting only fueled the insurgency.

Today, a State Department spokesman had this to say.

IAN KELLY: Senior officials on the ground in Afghanistan and — and here in — in Washington have — have talked to him, have — have heard him out. We respect his — his right to dissent. This is an old and respected tradition in the Foreign Service, that Foreign Service personnel have the — have the right to express their — their dissent.

JIM LEHRER: The Post reports that Hoh was offered alternative jobs in the government, but he declined.

In Iraq, a deal that would have cleared the way for national elections has dissolved. Last night, Prime Minister al-Maliki and other leaders agreed to a compromise to balance Arab and Kurdish rights in Kirkuk, but, today, the arrangement fell apart. The continuing deadlock could delay the elections, which are now scheduled for mid-January.

The government of Iran served notice today it wants important changes to a draft nuclear deal. It called for shipping most of Iran’s uranium outside the country for enrichment. But the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said the deal does not require any changes.

The French foreign minister agreed. And he voiced growing impatience with Iran.

BERNARD KOUCHNER, foreign minister, France: One day, it will be too late. The Americans and Mr. Obama have reinvigorated the need for dialogue, but it cannot take forever. We wait for answers. We have long shown patience.

JIM LEHRER: Iranian state television said the government will give its official reply to the U.N. plan within 48 hours.

The former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic boycotted his war crimes trial for a second day in the Netherlands. But the prosecution charged he presided over a long list of atrocities in the Balkan wars of the early 1990s.

We have a report narrated by Lindsey Hilsum of Independent Television News.

WOMAN: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is now in session.

JUDGE O-GON KWON, war crimes tribunal: I note that the accused, Mr. Karadzic, is once again not present, in spite of the chamber’s oral and written requests and warnings.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The judge said Mr. Karadzic’s refusal to attend would not deter them; they would send him a recording of the proceedings.

MAN: Thank you, Mr. President.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The prosecutor conjured memories of the siege of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, of the ethnic cleansing of Bosnia, the hundreds of thousands of refugees, of the massacre at Srebrenica, and laid blame at the feet of the man he called the supreme commander.

ALAN TIEGER, prosecution lawyer: This case, your honors, is about that supreme commander, a man who harnessed the forces of nationalism, hatred and fear to implement his vision of an ethnically separated Bosnia, Radovan Karadzic.

LINDSEY HILSUM: The death and suffering caused by the siege of Sarajevo is well-known, but the question is whether they can prove that Radovan Karadzic gave the orders.

The prosecutor emphasized Mr. Karadzic’s official leadership positions and quoted him from phone tap evidence.

ALAN TIEGER: And, in another intercepted, telephone call that week…

LINDSEY HILSUM: On October the 12th, 1991, Mr. Karadzic allegedly told a Serbian poet that the Bosnian Muslims would disappear from the face of the earth.

Today, in Belgrade, there was a warm welcome for Biljana Plavsic, one of Mr. Karadzic’s closest associates, who succeeded him as leader of Republika Srpska, the Serbian enclave in Bosnia. She turned herself into the International Tribunal and has been released from jail in Sweden after 11 years.

Mr. Karadzic was nowhere to be seen in The Hague today. He’s rejected all 11 charges against him, but his lawyer says he won’t appear in court until he’s had another eight months to prepare.

JIM LEHRER: The presiding judge said if Karadzic continues his boycott, he may be stripped of his right to defend himself. Instead, the tribunal would name a lawyer to represent him.

In U.S. economic news, consumer confidence in the U.S. sank in October. The Conference Board, a business research group, reported, Americans are still worried about their jobs. It said the finding could signal a dismal holiday shopping season.

On the other hand, a private housing index showed some home prices rose in most major cities in August. They have been up now for three months in a row.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 14 points, to close at 9882. The Nasdaq fell more than 25 points, to close at 2116.

Those two Northwest Airlines pilots who missed their Minneapolis destination have lost their license to fly. The Federal Aviation Administration announced that action today. It said the men violated a raft of regulations. The pilots have said they were working on laptop computers, in violation of airline policy, and lost track of time. They have 10 days to appeal the loss of their licenses.