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News Wrap: As Ukraine cease-fire draws to a close, Kerry urges peace efforts by Russia

June 26, 2014 at 6:02 PM EDT
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GWEN IFILL: The U.S. and Britain made fresh diplomatic efforts today to address the growing turmoil in Iraq.  Secretary of State John Kerry urged leading Arab states to form a united front against the Islamist insurgency in both Iraq and Syria.

In Baghdad, British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and pressed him to bring Sunnis and Kurds into a new government.

WILLIAM HAGUE, Foreign Secretary, United Kingdom: We believe the urgent priority must be to form an inclusive government following on from the recent elections that can command the support of all Iraqis and work to stop terrorists and their terrible crimes.

GWEN IFILL: And on Syria today, President Obama asked Congress for $500 million to train and arm Western-backed rebels fighting the Assad regime. They have been losing ground to Islamist factions and the White House has been under pressure to do more.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Thousands of Ukrainians rushed to cross into Russia today, a day before a week-old cease-fire expires. They were the latest in an exodus of civilians trying to escape fighting.

Meanwhile, in Paris, Secretary of State John Kerry warned Russia to move quickly on restoring peace in Ukraine. He spoke as European leaders prepare to consider new sanctions on Moscow.

JOHN KERRY, Secretary of State: We are in full agreement that it is critical for Russia to show in the next hours, literally, that they are moving to help disarm the separatists, to encourage them to disarm, to call on them to lay down their weapons and begin to become part of a legitimate political process.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Later, a State Department spokeswoman said Kerry wasn’t suggesting any specific timeline on possible sanctions.

GWEN IFILL: Investigators have a new theory on what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. They said today the plane flew on autopilot for hours before crashing in the Indian Ocean off Australia. And they said that suggests the crew was incapacitated by a loss of oxygen. Now they’re shifting the search southwest to a priority zone within a new area that covers about 23,000 square miles.

Australian Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss:

WARREN TRUSS, Deputy Prime Minister, Australia: We expect that the — that the underwater search element will commence in August and take about 12 months to complete.

In addition, the search effort will include equipment provided by Malaysia, which includes vessels fitted with search equipment, including towed sonar systems, which will be used to search the seafloor.

GWEN IFILL: The search area has been covered from the air and on the surface. The effort will now move deep underwater.

JUDY WOODRUFF: New York City’s ban on big sodas is dead. The state’s highest court refused today to reinstate the restriction. It had barred restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses from selling sugary drinks larger than 16 ounces. The court ruled the city health board had overstepped its authority. The ban originated under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

GWEN IFILL: In economic news, consumer spending rose just two-tenths of a percent in May, suggesting growth may not be as strong as hoped in the second quarter.

And Wall Street had a subpar day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 21 points to close at 16,846; the Nasdaq fell a fraction to close at 4,379; and the S&P 500 dropped two points, finishing at 1,957.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Former Senator Howard Baker, who famously posed the central question for President Nixon during Watergate, died today at his home in Tennessee. He’d suffered a stroke last weekend.

The moderate Republican captured the spotlight at the 1973 Watergate hearings, as he repeatedly asked, what did the president know and when did he know it?

Here, he questions then-attorney General John Mitchell.

SEN. HOWARD BAKER, R, Tenn.: Is there such an aura of magnificence about the presidency? Is there such an awesome responsibility for a multitude of problems and undertakings of this nation that the presidency in some instances must be spared the detail, must be spared the difficulty of situations which, in ordinary circumstances, might be considered by some at least to be frank, open declarations of criminal events?

Is the presidency to be protected in that way? Is the splendor of the isolation so great that the president must be protected, and, if so, in what cases?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Baker spent 18 years in the Senate and served both as majority and minority leader at various times. Later, he became chief of staff to President Reagan in the waning years of his administration. Most recently, Baker served as the American ambassador to Japan. Howard Baker was 88 years old.