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News Wrap: Iraq May Be Closer to Forming New Government

December 20, 2010 at 4:29 PM EDT
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In other news Monday, a new Iraqi government might soon be a reality as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted a list of potential Cabinet members to Parliament, some nine months after national elections. Meanwhile, Afghanistan's Parliament is preparing to convene in January four months after elections.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Iraq may finally be close to seating a new government, nine months after national elections. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki submitted a list of cabinet members today. Parliament could approve the roster as early as tomorrow. For now, 13 of the 42 posts would be filled by acting ministers. That could give Maliki time to work out disagreements with a key Shiite faction.

The Parliament in Afghanistan will convene a month from today, more than four months after elections there. The voting was marred by fraud, and officials threw out nearly a quarter of all the ballots. Meanwhile, fighting claimed another NATO soldier, making at least 690 this year. And Taliban militants killed 14 Afghan soldiers and policemen in separate attacks in Kabul and to the north in Kunduz.

In Belarus, police enforced a crackdown on the opposition, after a

disputed presidential election on Sunday. President Alexander Lukashenko won a fourth term with nearly 80 percent of the vote. That sparked outrage Sunday in Minsk, where some 40,000 protesters charged the vote was rigged. Riot police arrested hundreds of people, including most of the leading opposition figures.

North Korea backed away from threats to retaliate against South Korea over military drills today. They took place off an island in the Yellow Sea where North Korean shelling killed four people last month. The North’s state-run news agency said today’s exercises were reckless, but not worth a response.

Meanwhile, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson left North Korea after a four-day visit. He said the North agreed to let U.N. inspectors resume visiting its nuclear sites.

That brought this response in Washington.

P.J. CROWLEY, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs: We have seen a string of broken promises by North Korea going back many, many years. We have — as we have said all along, we will be guided by what North Korea does, not by what North Korea says it might do under certain circumstances.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Six-nation talks on North Korea’s nuclear program have been stalled for two years.

Winter storms left British air and rail travel largely paralyzed today.

Thousands of people were still stranded at London’s Heathrow Airport, as officials struggled to clear snow and ice from Saturday. That, in turn, caused cancellations and delays around the world.

Meanwhile, record rainfall in California triggered flood warnings and fears of mudslides, and more rain was forecast this week.

Wall Street has a quiet start to the Christmas holiday week. The Dow Jones industrial average lost more than 13 points to close at 11478. The Nasdaq rose six points to close at 2649.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.