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Floods Leave Nearly One Million People Homeless in Southern Mexico


MEXICO - FLOODS: Nearly one-million people in the southern Mexican state of Tabasco are homeless in the wake of the region's worst flooding in 50 years. Days of heavy rains have caused river banks in the region to overflow, submerging much of the oil-rich region underwater. Television footage showed many residents standing on rooftops waiting to be rescued, in scenes reminiscent of (the southern U.S. city of) New Orleans, Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The disaster has also left grocery stores without food and water, and there have been reports of looting.

TURKEY - IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has promised to work with his country's neighbors to fight terrorism, saying his government is taking "serious measures" against Kurdish rebels. In remarks to a major international meeting on Iraq being held in Istanbul today, Mr. Maliki said Iraq should not be a base for attacks against neighbors. Turkey has been pressing Iraq to crack down on rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, based in northern Iraq who launch attacks in southeastern Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the conference that Iraq must establish internal security and stability, and must not create threats for its neighbors.

BURMA: United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari is in Burma in a new bid to reconcile the military government and pro-democracy forces. Gambari is making his second trip to Burma since the military cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators led by Buddhist monks in September. Gambari has urged the government to start talks with pro-democracy leaders. Gambari's arrival today comes one day after the government decided to expel the top U.N. diplomat in the country. Military leaders abruptly ended the mission of U.N. development coordinator Charles Petrie on Friday.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The top U.S. nuclear negotiator says a team of experts will start the process of taking apart North Korea's nuclear facilities on Monday. Christopher Hill told reporters in Tokyo today that U.S. specialists are now in the North Korean capital (Pyongyang) and will travel to the Yongbyon nuclear complex on Sunday. Hill said this is the first time the nuclear facilities have ever been disabled. Under a deal between North Korea and five other nations, the communist government promised to dismantle its nuclear facilities and give a list of its nuclear programs to negotiators by the end of this year.

CHINA - DISSIDENT: Chinese democracy activists say police blocked friends of a famous Chinese dissident from attending his funeral today. Bao Zunxin was a prominent pro-democracy activist jailed after the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protests. He died late last month at the age of 70. Scores of mourners showed up at his funeral in Beijing, but others reported that Chinese police prevented them from leaving their homes to attend the service. Some activists told journalists by telephone that police camped outside their apartments the day before the funeral and refused to let them out.

SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels have declared three days of mourning after the killing of their political leader in a government airstrike Friday. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said Friday that Brigadier S.P. Thamilselvan and five others were killed in the attack on a meeting of rebel leaders in the northern Kilinochchi district. Rebel spokesman Rasiah Ilanthirayan said Thamilseivan's funeral is scheduled for Monday. Thamilselvan is the highest-ranking member of the LTTE to be killed by government forces. Tiger rebels named their police chief, P. Nadeson, as his successor.

LIBYA - AL-QAIDA: Al-Qaida second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri said today that a Libyan group had joined the terrorist network and he urged mujahideen in North Africa to topple the leaders of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco. In a recording posted on an Islamist Web site today, al-Zawahiri said leaders of the Fighting Islamic Group in Libya had pledged their allegiance to al-Qaida. The Fighting Islamic Group emerged in 1995, with the avowed goal of overthrowing Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi. They claimed responsibility for a failed assassination attempt against Mr. Gaddafi in 1996. The recording could not be independently verified.

GERMANY - AFGHANISTAN: German officials say Chancellor Angela Merkel has arrived in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit. The German embassy in Kabul confirmed today that Ms. Merkel is making her first visit to the South Asian country, but could not immediately give details of her itinerary. Early last month, the German parliament approved the extension of the country's military deployment in Afghanistan, despite decreasing public support for the mission. In a 454-to-79 vote, the parliament's lower house (Bundestag) agreed to renew German troops' deployment for another year.

US - SPACE SHUTTLE: Two astronauts aboard the U.S. space shuttle Discovery have begun a risky spacewalk this morning to repair a torn solar panel on the International Space Station. Scott Parazynski will attempt to clear up whatever snagged the panels as they were being unfurled on Tuesday. If successful, he will then attempt to repair the holes in the solar panels. He will be working while strapped to the end of Discovery's 15-meter extension boom, which will be attached to the space station's longer robotic arm. Parazynski risks being electrocuted if he touches the panels.

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