Israel mulls military option for Iran nukes

JERUSALEM - Israel is building up its strike capabilities amid growing anxiety over Iran's nuclear ambitions and appears confident that a military attack would cripple Tehran's atomic program, even if it can't destroy it.

Such talk could be more threat than reality. However, Iran's refusal to accept Western conditions is worrying Israel as is the perception that Washington now prefers diplomacy over confrontation with Tehran.

The Jewish state has purchased 90 F-16I fighter planes that can carry enough fuel to reach Iran, and it will receive 11 more by the end of next year. It has bought two new Dolphin submarines from Germany reportedly capable of firing nuclear-armed warheads - in addition to the three it already has.

And this summer it carried out air maneuvers in the Mediterranean that touched off an international debate over whether they were a 'dress rehearsal' for an imminent attack, a stern warning to Iran or a just a way to get allies to step up the pressure on Tehran to stop building nukes.

Israel, itself an undeclared nuclear power, sees an atomic bomb in Iranian hands as a direct threat to its existence.

Iraqi election bill falls to ethnic rivalry

BAGHDAD - Iraqi lawmakers failed Wednesday to agree on a provincial election law and adjourned for the month, casting doubt whether U.S.-backed balloting can be held this year in the country's 18 provinces.

Parliament did manage to sign off on a $21 billion supplemental budget, a move the Iraqis hope will ease U.S. congressional criticism that they aren't paying their fair share of Iraq's reconstruction at a time of economic hardship in the United States.

Bush says US firmly opposed to Chinese repression

BANGKOK, Thailand - With all eyes on Beijing, President Bush bluntly told China that America stands in 'firm opposition' to the way the communist government represses its own people, a rebuke delivered from the heart of Asia on the cusp of the Olympic Games.

Bush balanced his chiding with praise for China's market reforms and hope that it will embrace freedom, reflecting the delicate balance that Bush seeks to strike with the potent U.S. rival.