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News Wrap: U.S. Condemns Attacks on American, French Embassies in Syria

July 11, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: Wall Street staggered into a new week, hit by worries over the debt standoff in Washington and the ongoing debt crisis in Europe.

The Dow Jones industrial average lost 151 points to close above 12,505. The Nasdaq fell 57 points to close at 2,802.

Government loyalists in Syria attacked the U.S. and French embassies in Damascus today. It was retaliation for the French and American ambassadors visiting an opposition city last week. Mobs gathered outside the U.S. Embassy, where they chanted protests and burned the American flag. They breached a wall and had broken some windows before being dispersed by U.S. Marine guards.

In Washington, State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland condemned the attack and the regime’s response.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department spokeswoman: The Syrian government has not lived up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention to protect diplomatic facilities. And it’s absolutely outrageous. They have not done the job that all governments are supposed to do in protecting the diplomatic facilities of all resident diplomats in their country.

HARI SREENIVASAN: U.S. officials said there were no injuries to embassy staffers.

In Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta threatened stronger action to stop Iran from arming Shiite militias who attack U.S. troops. Panetta spoke to a group of U.S. soldiers in Baghdad and said, “This is not something we’re going to walk away from. It’s something we’re going to take on head on.”

Panetta also met with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and President Jalal Talabani. They discussed keeping some U.S. troops in Iraq after the withdrawal deadline in December.

Officials in Pakistan today played down a U.S. decision to suspend $800 million in military aid. U.S. officials confirmed it on Sunday. But a Pakistani spokesman insisted today that operations would continue without external support. Tensions between the two nations have escalated since the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan.

Reports in Britain now say former Prime Minister Gordon Brown was one of the victims of phone hacking by a tabloid newspaper, News of the World. The Rupert Murdoch media conglomerate has closed the paper. And it delayed efforts today to take over another company, British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB.

We have a report from Gary Gibbon of Independent Television News.

GARY GIBBON: Gordon Brown wooed the Murdoch empire like the best of them. But they turned on him, backing David Cameron in the last election. Today, he turned on them.

Gordon Brown believes his phone and that of his wife may have been hacked into by the News of the World. He believes someone working on behalf of The Sunday Times accessed his bank account. And he believes his son’s medical records were obtained by the Sun newspaper.

DAVID MUIR, former director of strategy for Gordon Brown: They had information that Fraser had cystic fibrosis, which was a matter that they, the family, were just getting their heads around at the time and kind of dealing with.

GARY GIBBON: It was a fast-moving day of swirling allegations, political and corporate positioning. Amongst the allegations, it was suggested that royal protection officers in the police force had sold confidential royal phone numbers to the News of the World, that the prince of Wales and the duchess of Cornwall may have had their phones hacked into.

Halfway through the day, Rupert Murdoch announced that he was suddenly changing his tactics for how he could get his hands on the 61 percent of BSkyB he doesn’t already own. Rupert Murdoch woke up at his London home with a new plan for how to get his hands on the whole of BSkyB. He’d go down the route he’d been trying to avoid, a drawn-out reference to the Competition Commission.

The commission doesn’t normally complete its reports in under a year. But the Murdochs have decided their best chance of keeping their takeover bid in play is to go down this road.

Earlier, the deputy prime minister met with the family of the murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler. It was the revelation that the News of the World hacked into the girl’s phone messages after she had been abducted that triggered the shutdown of the newspaper. The family repeated their call for the News International boss, Rebekah Brooks, who edited the News of the World at the time, to resign.

HARI SREENIVASAN: In another development, Scotland Yard released a statement accusing unnamed individuals of trying to sabotage its investigation. Part of that probe involves allegations that Murdoch journalists paid bribes to police for information.

Rescuers in Russia searched a huge reservoir on the Volga River today, after a cruise boat sank on Sunday. At least 55 people were killed, with 79 rescued and dozens more missing. It happened about 450 miles east of Moscow in windy, rainy conditions. The boat sank in just eight minutes.

Today, debris was visible in the water as search boats looked for victims and survivors. Families stood by, hoping for news.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.