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Iran Says ‘Crushing Response’ Would Follow a Western Attack

A senior Iranian official was quoted Tuesday as threatening that Iran would respond to any military attack by striking Israel and America’s vital interests around the globe.

“In case that they commit such foolishness, Tel Aviv and the U.S. fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the first targets to burst into flames receiving Iran’s crushing response,” said Ali Shirazi, a representative of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, according to the ISNA news agency.

The threat — which drew no immediate response from Israel or the United States — was the latest salvo in the complex maneuvering around Western efforts to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions, particularly the enrichment of uranium.

The United States, Israel and other Western countries fear that Iran’s nuclear program is designed to build nuclear weapons, but Tehran says it is for civilian purposes.

Senate Report Links Dead Doctors to Payments by Medicare

Congressional investigators said Tuesday that Medicare had paid tens of millions of dollars to suppliers improperly using identification numbers of doctors who died years ago.

The government has no reliable way to spot claims linked to dead doctors, many of whom are still listed as active Medicare providers though they died 10 or 15 years ago, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations said.

Medicare covers wheelchairs, walkers, home oxygen equipment and many other types of medical equipment. When suppliers file claims for equipment provided to a Medicare beneficiary, they normally must list an identification number for the doctor who prescribed or ordered it.

“From 2000 to 2007, Medicare paid 478,500 claims containing identification numbers that were assigned to deceased physicians,” the subcommittee said in a new report. “The total amount paid for these claims is estimated to be between $60 million and $92 million. These claims contained identification numbers for an estimated 16,548 to 18,240 deceased physicians.”

Iraqi Officials Still Insisting on Timetable o Withdraw

Iraqi officials continued to insist Tuesday that a timetable for the withdrawal of coalition troops must be included in any security agreement with the United States.

Meanwhile, in western Anbar province, 22 bodies were found at a Ramadi elementary school that was undergoing construction, 20 of them buried in the playing fields, apparently over a lengthy period, the local police said.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the national security adviser, said the government would reject any security agreement that did not include a schedule for the departure of foreign troops.

“We will not accept a memorandum of understanding without having timeline horizons for the cessation of combat operations as well as the departure of all the combat brigades,” al-Rubaie said in a telephone interview. However, he declined to offer specifics on a timeline, suggesting that the Iraqi government itself was not yet sure how quickly it wanted the United States to withdraw.

Earlier in the day, al-Rubaie was in the holy city of Najaf meeting with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s most senior Shiite religious leader. The ayatollah has not expressed an opinion on the specifics of the negotiations, emphasizing only that Iraq must protect its sovereignty.