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News Wrap: Taliban May Be Considering New Talks

October 14, 2010 at 4:30 PM EDT

HARI SREENIVASAN: The head of Afghanistan’s new peace council today said he believes the Taliban is ready to take part in serious negotiations. The Afghan government recently acknowledged it has engaged in informal reconciliation talks with the Taliban. But, in Kabul, the council’s chairman warned, the process won’t happen overnight.

BURHANUDDIN RABBANI, chairman, Afghan High Peace Council (through translator): There have been meetings and talks. Even I have had meetings and talks with some Taliban representatives from time to time. And I can feel the interest among the Taliban, because there were and still are some Taliban who are giving the message of their preparation. But, when this preparation turns into real action and good news, it needs time.

HARI SREENIVASAN: The U.S. secretary of defense today reiterated U.S. support for the Afghan government’s peace talks with the Taliban. Robert Gates said the U.S. has offered advice to the Afghans on how to move forward. He spoke today in Brussels, Belgium.

U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ROBERT GATES: It’s basically a partnership as we go forward with this, with clearly the Afghans in the lead.

But I think we’re confident that we — we have access into this process and plenty of opportunities to make our concerns, as well as our suggestions known.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Those remarks came as eight more NATO troops were killed in separate attacks across Afghanistan. NATO officials didn’t disclose their nationalities. Their deaths raise the toll for the month of October to at least 42.

A plot to kill the prime minister of Pakistan was foiled today. Police arrested seven suspected Islamic militants and said they were planning a suicide attack at Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s house. The men are also accused of targeting other government officials in assassination plots.

A terror plot in Europe is still active, according to the U.S. State

Department’s counterterrorism coordinator. Earlier this month, American citizens living or traveling in Europe were warned to take more precautions because of possible attacks in cities across that continent. Daniel Benjamin said today the situation remains the same and there are no plans to rescind the travel advisory.

A U.S. military report estimates nearly 77,000 Iraqi civilians were killed during the bloodiest chapter of sectarian warfare. The military’s count shows 76,939 deaths from early 2004 to mid-2008. But that number falls well below Iraqi government figures, which are nearly 10,000 deaths higher for roughly the same time period.

The new data was discovered by the Associated Press this week on U.S. Central Command’s Web site. It was released without comment or explanation in July.

The U.S. Justice Department has appealed to a federal judge to let the military’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy on gays continue. On Tuesday, a federal judge in California ordered the U.S. military to immediately stop enforcing its policy barring gay men and women from openly serving in the military.

But the Department of Justice is duty-bound to defend federal statutes when they are challenged. At a town hall event with young people today, President Obama said the policy would end on his watch.

A federal judge in Florida ruled a health care overhaul lawsuit can move ahead to trial. Twenty states are seeking to void the Obama administration’s health care legislation. In a written ruling, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson said he wants to hear additional arguments over whether the law is unconstitutional. Another federal judge in Michigan threw out a similar lawsuit last week. The lawsuits will likely wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. trade deficit widened sharply in August to $46.3 billion. The Commerce Department reported for August it was up nearly 9 percent. And a large chunk of it was a deficit with China, which has reached an all-time high of $28 billion.

Markets were down slightly on Wall Street today, after a lackluster jobs report and concerns about questionable bank foreclosures. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than a point to close above 11094. The Nasdaq fell nearly six points to close at 2435.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.