News Briefs: Republicans brace for South Carolina; Alaska town under 15 feet of snow runs short of shovels
Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney has won the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary (Courtesy Photo/Romney campaign)
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Next up, South Carolina. And it's shaping up to be a dogfight.
The Republican presidential race turns to this state Wednesday as Mitt Romney's rivals set their sights on trying to tear down the GOP front-runner.
A rougher tone and a tougher ideological terrain await the former Massachusetts governor, who is looking to force his opponents from the race with a four-state win streak that cuts through South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida 10 days later. He posted a double-digit win Tuesday night in New Hampshire after a squeaker the week before in Iowa -- making him the first non-incumbent Republican in a generation to pull off the back-to-back feat.
"Tonight we celebrate. Tomorrow we go back to work," Romney told a raucous victory party in Manchester, N.H., probably mindful of the minefields that South Carolina held for him four years ago when he failed to win over Republicans skeptical of his Mormon faith and reversals on some social issues. "We are asking the good people of South Carolina to join the citizens of New Hampshire."
With just 10 days before this state's primary, Romney has a target on his back as five others work to emerge as his chief challenger by wooing tea party and religious conservatives who now dominate the GOP here.
U.S. fires 1st drone into Pakistan since strike that killed Pakistani troops; 4 militants dead
BANNU, Pakistan (AP) -- The U.S. carried out its first drone strike into Pakistan since errant November airstrikes by U.S. forces killed two dozen Pakistani troops along the Afghan border. The latest missile attack killed four militants, three of them Arabs, according to Pakistani intelligence officials.
The drone strike took place Tuesday near Miran Shah in North Waziristan, an al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold that has been pounded by the U.S. since the drone program began in earnest in 2009. The intelligence officials didn't give their names because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Relations with Pakistan plummeted after the Nov. 26 airstrikes prompted Islamabad to shut down vital supply routes into Afghanistan and force the U.S. to vacate Shamsi Air Base in southwestern Baluchistan province. The U.S. used the base to service drones that targeted militants in the tribal regions close to Afghanistan.
American officials say there had been no promise by Washington that drone operations would be avoided since the deadly airstrikes, but that the lull was part of a broad effort to tamp down tensions with Pakistan. While there has long been some level of agreement by Pakistan over the drone attacks, their scope and frequency has been a source of friction between the two countries.
An American investigation into the November airstrikes concluded that a persistent lack of trust between the U.S. and Pakistan, and a series of communications and coordination errors on both sides, led to the attacks. Pakistani officials have rejected that probe and there has been little public sign that relations between the two countries are improving.
North Korea keeps door open to U.S. food-for-nuke-disarmament offer but complains U.S. changed deal
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea signaled Wednesday it remains open to suspending uranium enrichment in exchange for U.S. food aid, a deal that appeared imminent before leader Kim Jong Il died last month.
The North complained that the United States had "drastically" changed the amount and kind of aid it would send, but said officials would wait and "see if the United States has a willingness to establish confidence" with North Korea -- which observers saw as Pyongyang's precondition for making the food-for-uranium-suspension deal happen.
The North's statement offers an early look at how the government now led by Kim Jong Il's son, Kim Jong Un, will handle two of North Korea's most pressing issues: a long-running food crisis and years of international pressure to end its nuclear program.
"The North is saying it is willing to go ahead with nuclear steps if it gets the food aid it wants," said Koh Yu-hwan, a North Korea professor at Seoul's Dongguk University. "The North is telling the United States to provide a goodwill gesture. If Washington doesn't, Pyongyang is threatening it will go down its own path."
Some have feared Pyongyang may attempt to rally support around the younger Kim's rule with a nuclear or missile test or an act of aggression against South Korea, but Wednesday's statement from an unidentified Foreign Ministry spokesman in Pyongyang suggests it may instead choose to pursue an agreement that could be trumpeted as a diplomatic victory.
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