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National briefs June 25,2010

| June 25, 2010 9:00 PM

Obama stresses no discord with Petraeus on board

WASHINGTON - No more discord in the Afghanistan war command, President Barack Obama vows. With Gen. David Petraeus in charge, the president said Thursday he's assembled the team that will take the U.S. through the months ahead - by all expectations the make-or-break stage of the conflict.

"I am going to be insisting on a unity of purpose on the part of all branches of the U.S. government," the president said. "Our team is going to be moving forward in synch."

Obama said he does not anticipate further firings beyond Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top war commander hired a year ago to turn around a war then sliding into quagmire. He was fired Wednesday for sniping at civilian war bosses in a magazine article.

"I'm paying very close attention," Obama said of his war council. "And I will be insisting on extraordinary performance moving forward."

Obama and his top security advisers also underscored that U.S. forces will begin to come home from Afghanistan next summer, and that the commander taking over for the disgraced McChrystal is pledged to that timetable.

Republicans kill Senate jobless aid measure

WASHINGTON - Republicans on Thursday defeated Democrats' showcase election-year jobs bill, including an extension of weekly unemployment benefits for millions of people out of work more than six months.

The 57-41 vote fell three votes short of the 60 required to crack a GOP filibuster, delivering a major blow to President Barack Obama and Democrats facing big losses of House and Senate seats in the fall election.

The rejected bill would have provided $16 billion in new aid to states, preserving the jobs of thousands of state and local government workers and providing what White House officials called an insurance policy against a double-dip recession. It included dozens of tax breaks sought by business lobbyists and tax increases on domestically produced oil and on investment fund managers.

North Korea threatens more punishment

SEOUL, South Korea - North Korea threatened to increase punishment for an American sentenced to hard labor for illegally entering the country, linking his case to U.S. criticism of Pyongyang over the deadly sinking of a South Korean warship.

Aijalon Mahli Gomes, from Boston, was sentenced in April to eight years of hard labor and fined $700,000 for entering the country illegally and for an unspecified "hostile act."

The North is examining what harsher measures to take against Gomes under a wartime law, and would be compelled to consider applying the law if the U.S. persists in its "hostile approach," the official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.

- The Associated Press

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