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World Briefs April 19, 2010

| April 19, 2010 9:00 PM

Obama to sell financial overhaul to country

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama is preparing to travel outside Washington in the coming weeks to sell his proposal for financial regulatory reform to the country.White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage announced the trip Sunday as Obama steps up his lobbying efforts in support of new rules for Wall Street. A showdown with Republicans on legislation in the Senate is expected later this month.

Details on the timing and location of Obama's trip are not available.Obama has been casting the issue as a choice for lawmakers between siding with American people and what he calls special interests. Getting the public on his side could help pressure Republicans who are lining up against the bill. They say it creates more problems than it solves.

Gates says US is prepared on Iran's nuclear plan WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Robert Gates is disputing the characterization of a memo he wrote in January suggesting the U.S. needed to advance a long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program.

Gates said Sunday allies and foes should have no doubt the U.S. is prepared to act "across a broad range of contingencies" in support of its interests with Iran. He said the memo identified steps to be taken in defense planning after Washington decided to increase pressure against Iran's nuclear ambitions.Government sources told The New York Times the memo prompted a scramble to come up with new options, including military ones. But Gates says he was merely laying out an orderly and timely decision-making process.

European airlines test skies, press to end ban

AMSTERDAM- Major airlines that sent test flights into European air space found no damage Sunday from the volcanic ash that has paralyzed aviation over the continent, raising pressure on governments to ease restrictions that have thrown global travel and commerce into chaos.

Is it safe to fly yet? Airline officials and some pilots say the passengerless test flights show that it is. Meteorologists warn that the skies over Europe remain unstable from an Icelandic volcano that continues to spew ash capable of knocking out jet engines.European Union officials said air traffic could return to half its normal level on Monday if the dense cloud begins to dissipate. Germany allowed some flights to resume.

Eighty percent of European airspace remained closed for a devastating fourth day on Sunday, with only 4,000 of the normal 20,000-flight schedule in the air, said Brian Flynn, deputy head of operations for Eurocontrol, which supports the air traffic control network across the European Union's 27 states.

Taliban say buildup under way

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The Taliban are moving fighters into Kandahar, planting bombs and plotting attacks as NATO and Afghan forces prepare for a summer showdown with insurgents, according to a Taliban commander with close ties to senior insurgent leaders.NATO and Afghan forces are stepping up operations to push Taliban fighters out of the city, which was the Islamist movement's headquarters during the years it ruled most of Afghanistan. The goal is to bolster the capability of the local government so that it can keep the Taliban from coming back.The Taliban commander, who uses the pseudonym Mubeen, told The Associated Press that if military pressure on the insurgents becomes too great "we will just leave and come back after" the foreign forces leave.

Despite nightly raids by NATO and Afghan troops, Mubeen said his movements have not been restricted. He was interviewed last week in the center of Kandahar, seated with his legs crossed on a cushion in a room. His only concession to security was to lock the door.He made no attempt to hide his face and said he felt comfortable because of widespread support among Kandahar's 500,000 residents, who like the Taliban are mostly Pashtuns, Afghanistan's biggest ethnic community.

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