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Briefs (left)

Fire in Missouri Kills 10 at
Home For Mentally Disabled

By John Hacker
and Ralph Blumenthal
THE NEW YORK TIMES ANDERSON, MO.

A fire raced through a group home for the mentally ill and disabled here early Monday, killing nine residents and one staff member in a blaze that Gov. Matt Blunt called suspicious.

Eighteen other people were hospitalized, some in critical condition. Six of the 34 people inside the building, ranging in age from their early 20s to seniors, escaped with minor injuries. Officials would not immediately identify the victims, and local hospitals would not allow patients who survived the fire to be interviewed.

The fire destroyed the one-story home, the Anderson Guest House, a converted grocery operated by the River of Life Ministries Inc. The group declined to comment, but the operator’s owner, Robert Dupont, later released a statement calling the fire and the loss of life “a very tragic situation,” The Associated Press reported.

State officials said the building, on the main highway through this town of 1,900 in McDonald County, in the southwest Ozarks, had been cited for minor violations but passed state inspection as recently as March.

Iranian President Vows to
Help Iraq Curb Violence

By Nazila Fathi
and Kirk Semple
THE NEW YORK TIMES TEHRAN, IRAN

Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, pledged Monday in a meeting with the Iraqi president that Iran will do all it can to stop the growing violence in Iraq.

“The Iranian government and people will stand by their brothers in Iraq and will do anything to help bring peace into Iraq,” Ahmadinejad said in a press conference with the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, state-run television reported. “A safe, developed and strong Iraq is better for Iran and also for the region,” he said.

In an effort to increase its role as an influential power in the region, Iran had also invited the Syrian president, Bashar Assad, to join the talks with Talabani. But Assad did not respond to the invitation, according to an official at Ahmadinejad’s office who requested anonymity.

Analysts believe that Talabani is here to urge Iranian officials to hold direct talks with the United States to help stop the bloodshed in Iraq. On Sunday, Ahmadinejad said that Iran was ready to help America in Iraq. Iran has close ties with Shiite leaders in Iraq, and it might be able to call on them to exert restraint.

Lawyers Cite Obstruction in
Second Trial For Rights Advocate

By Joseph Kahn
THE NEW YORK TIMES BEIJING

A Chinese legal expert who exposed abuses in the country’s population control policies began a rare second trial on Monday, but his lawyers accused local authorities of preventing them from mounting a vigorous defense.

The legal expert, Chen Guangcheng, was sentenced in August to four years and three months by a county court in Shandong Province for destroying property and organizing a mob to disrupt traffic.

A higher court later quashed the verdict and ordered a new trial, which some supporters of Chen cited as an important breakthrough for China’s Communist Party-run judicial system.

But the first day of the new trial, held in the same county court, ended in acrimony. Several of Chen’s most important witnesses were prevented from attending the hearing by thugs who had the backing of local officials, his lawyers said, and the judges in the case declined to grant a defense request to delay the trial.