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News Briefs

Cheney Says Americans Support Bush’s Tough Talk

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- SAN DIEGO

Speaking to 2,500 Marines, Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that despite “a certain amount of hand-wringing in some quarters” about President Bush’s “axis of evil” comment, he believes that most Americans admire Bush’s tough talk.

“Most Americans find it reassuring to have a commander in chief who speaks the truth and means exactly what he says,” Cheney said during a speech on the tarmac at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.

Cheney suggested that the next stage in the war on terrorism may involve strikes against countries that are stockpiling chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

And he noted that of the Bush-designated “axis” countries -- Iraq, Iran and North Korea -- Iraq has already used chemical weapons against its ethnic Kurdish population and Iran.

“Afghanistan is only the beginning of a long and unrelenting effort,” Cheney said. “... Wherever threats are forming against our country, we will respond, and we will respond decisively.”

Cheney’s 10-minute speech -- one of his few public appearances since Sept. 11 -- brought repeated applause and shouts of support.

“When something happens to this country, it really works me up,” said Lance Cpl. Chad Rains, 19, of Fremont, Calif.

Russian Suggests Fire Doomed Sub

THE WASHINGTON POST -- MOSCOW

The head of the Russian navy said Monday that the ill-fated Kursk submarine was loaded with obsolete torpedoes containing a highly unstable fuel when it sank 18 months ago, killing all 118 crew members.

Adm. Vladimir Kuroyedov, the navy’s commander-in-chief, suggested the fuel somehow caught fire and caused a torpedo to explode, ripping out the ship’s bow and sending Russia’s most modern nuclear submarine to the bottom of the Barents Sea.

He stopped short of identifying a torpedo malfunction as the definite cause of the disaster, and investigators said they are still looking into what happened. But Kuroyedov said the fuel was an overly volatile mix including hydrogen peroxide. Moreover, he said, the torpedoes, first designed in 1957, should not have been in service and have since been decommissioned.

The commander’s comments -- the most specific yet by the Russian government about the possible cause of the accident -- were accompanied by a Kremlin announcement that Ilya Klebanov, a deputy prime minister in charge of the Russia’s military industrial complex, has been demoted. No reason was given for President Vladimir Putin’s decision, other than a statement that Klebanov needed to concentrate on his secondary duties as minister of industry, science and technology.