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News Briefs

U.S. Ambassador Sees No Election Delay For Afghanistan

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said Monday that government and international officials were still working to hold both presidential and parliamentary elections in Afghanistan in June or shortly after.

“There is a way for this to happen,” he said. “I am optimistic that this will be the case. I have argued that there are ways to compensate for the slow start.”

He said it was premature to talk of postponement at this stage, since the effort to accelerate registration and organization for elections had not yet started. He was responding to a report on Monday in The New York Times that said the Bush administration has begun suggesting that the elections might have to be postponed because of security problems and the failure to register enough voters.

“We have not gone through the exercise to its conclusion yet,” he said in an interview. “If decisions are made in time, there is enough time.”

Gay Couples Rush To Wed, Fearing Rain On Marriage March

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- SAN FRANCISCO

Intent on getting coveted marriage licenses before court hearings on Tuesday to stop same-sex marriages, hundreds of gay and lesbian couples continued to descend on City Hall here on Monday, many after camping outside overnight and braving chilling rain.

Mabel S. Teng, the city assessor-recorder, said her office, responsible for issuing the $83 licenses, would remain open until 8 p.m. and promised to process a record one-day total of 650 marriages. That would bring the number of same-sex marriages to 2,250 since the city opened the gates to gay couples last Thursday.

The clerk’s staff, the sheriff’s department and volunteers from other offices agreed to work through the three-day holiday weekend without pay, Teng said. “It’s purely out of love and commitment to equal rights,” she added.

At least 200 city workers, with additional help from the public, kept the doors to City Hall open over the weekend. Still, overwhelmed city officials acknowledged that some couples would not make the cut on what could be the last day to obtain a license.

Explosion At Iraq School Kills At Least One Child

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- BAGHDAD, IRAQ

An explosion on Monday in a corner of the crowded playground of an elementary school for boys in northern Baghdad killed at least one child and injured at least three. The U.S. military said the explosion was caused by a homemade bomb, but a member of the Baghdad police bomb squad said the explosion was an accident.

The U.S. military said the explosion killed two children and wounded three others.

When the Iraqi police arrived at the school, the Asmaa elementary school, they discovered a second unexploded bomb, or what the military called an “improvised explosive device,” near the site of the blast, the military said, adding that the police called in an Army bomb squad, which successfully defused it.

But a member of the Baghdad police bomb squad said that the explosion was caused when an old grenade buried in some trash exploded as the trash was being incinerated. He said the second bomb was far from the school, near a hospital. The Iraqi police have said that one child was killed, not two, and that four were injured.