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Other News: Wells Fargo Concerns Drive Market Sell-off

October 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
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GWEN IFILL: In other news today: new concerns about the health of one major bank, Wells Fargo, triggered a late-day sell-off on Wall Street. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 92 points, to close at 9949. The Nasdaq fell more than 12 points, to close over 2150.

And oil prices shot up 3 percent and topped $81 in New York trading, a new high for the year. Oil is up 120 percent since it bottomed out at $37 a barrel last December.

The main challenger to Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has agreed to take part in a runoff. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah will face Karzai on November 7. But during a speech in Kabul, Abdullah said he will demand new conditions for conducting the vote to prevent extensive fraud from occurring again.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, Afghan presidential candidate: When the people of Afghanistan participate in the elections, and hopefully in bigger numbers, they are taking a risk in some parts of the country. And they should be confident that that risk is worthwhile taking once again.

GWEN IFILL: The election drama in Afghanistan may have a direct impact on President Obama’s decision on whether to order in more U.S. troops. A White House spokesman said today it’s certainly possible that announcement could come before the runoff. But Senator John Kerry said it makes common sense to wait until after the re-vote.

The Massachusetts Democrat met privately with President Obama today hours after returning from Kabul.

SEN. JOHN KERRY, D-Mass.: It’s a two-week period. I think you really want to know that this has worked and you want to know what kind of government is coming out of it. So I think we — you know, that’s, again, why this is a very important period of time. And I would absolutely counsel the president to wait until the end of the runoff.

GWEN IFILL: Kerry has acted as a go-between with President Karzai in recent days and helped persuade him to accept the runoff.

There was also a new warning that Afghanistan’s multibillion-dollar drug trade is doing damage worldwide. The smuggling of Afghan opium and heroin accounts for 90 percent of the world’s supply. A U.N. report today found it’s helping to fuel the spread of AIDS across Central Asia and it’s providing funds for extremist groups around the globe.

In Austria today, diplomats reported a tentative agreement at the Iran nuclear talks. Most of Iran’s existing supply of enriched uranium would be shipped to Russia for processing, which could delay any attempt by Iran to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The head of the U.N. nuclear agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said Iranian negotiators supported the idea.

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, director general, International Atomic Energy Agency: I very much hope that people see the big picture, see that this agreement could open the way for a complete normalization of relation between Iran and the international community. I would cross my finger that, by Friday, we should have an OK, an approval by all the parties concerned.

GWEN IFILL: Iran’s chief delegate underlined that it’s all subject to approval by leaders in Tehran. But he said, the proposal is on the right track.

ALI ASGHAR SOLTANIEH, Iranian ambassador to the IAEA: We are fully cooperating. We came to this meeting with the spirit of cooperation, flexibility. And we are concluding this part of the meeting with the conclusion that we have had useful time and construction — constructive discussion for the purpose that I mentioned.

GWEN IFILL: The other parties at the talks, the U.S., France, and Russia, also accepted the draft agreement for review. In Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Iran to act quickly on the plan.

A Massachusetts man was charged today with plotting to attack shopping malls in the U.S. and American troops in Iraq. Federal authorities said Tarek Mehanna and two other men also planned to kill two unnamed members of the Bush administration. Court documents said the plots failed because the men were turned down by terror groups and could not find weapons on their own.

The fight between health insurance companies and congressional Democrats escalated today. Party leaders in the Senate announced they will try to kill the industry’s exemption from antitrust laws. The House Judiciary Committee approved a similar plan.

Today’s moves follow an industry study that claimed a leading Senate bill on health care reform would drive up premiums.