BURMA: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has left Burma's main city of Rangoon to visit the Irrawaddy Delta, getting his first glimpse of areas ravaged by Cyclone Nargis. Mr. Ban flew to the region by helicopter today after meeting with Burmese Prime Minister Thein Sein. The two men met at a Rangoon hotel, but details of the talks were not released. Mr. Ban is in Burma on a mission to speed up help for millions of cyclone victims. The U.N. and foreign aid agencies say time is critical for the Burma relief effort, because help is reaching only 25 percent of the two-and-one-half million people affected by the storm.
BURMA SDBR: LAURA BUSH: U.S. first lady Laura Bush has repeated her call for the reclusive Burmese government to allow the United States to help more with humanitarian aid for cyclone victims. In an interview with the U.S. government-funded International Broadcasting Bureau, Mrs. Bush (wife of President George Bush) said aid from the United States would be unconditional. She said she is glad Burma has allowed planeloads of aid to land in the country, but she urged the military government to allow U.S. Navy ships to dock there as well, because they contain equipment that cannot be flown in.
CHINA - QUAKE: China has appealed to the international community for more than three million tents to house survivors of last week's devastating earthquake in Sichuan province, as the official death toll now exceeds 51-thousand. The toll announced today is an increase of nearly 10-thousand from the day before. Officials say nearly 30-thousand people are still missing and more than five million remain homeless. Meanwhile, organizers of the Beijing Olympics say the Olympic torch will still travel through Sichuan but later than planned to avoid hampering rescue efforts.
US - HMONG - THAILAND: A group of U.S. senators is asking U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene with Thailand before it conducts a mass deportation of ethnic Hmong refugees back to their native Laos. The senators Wednesday asked Rice in a letter to urge Thai Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej to prevent the expulsion of the Hmong because they could be persecuted back in their homeland. The senators said a significant portion of the Hmong refugees who fled to Thailand have links to the Vietnam War, during which they supported U.S. troops fighting communist forces in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
CHINA TAIWAN REACTION: China's minister of Taiwan affairs says his country is making efforts to resume negotiations and dialogue following the election of Ma Ying-jeou as Taiwan's new president. Chen Yunlin said today there had already been positive efforts at reconciliation just two days after Mr. Ma was sworn in. Mr. Ma, who replaced President Chen Shui-bian, is a member of the Nationalist Party, which supports stronger business and transportation ties with China. In his inaugural address on Tuesday, Mr. Ma said he would pursue cross-Strait ties and regional stability.
SOKOR - US - BEEF: South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak has apologized for ignoring public health concerns when his government agreed to lift a ban on the import of U.S. beef as part of a bilateral trade deal. in a nationally televised address Today, Mr. Lee said his government neglected "to heed the will of the people," calling its efforts to understand public opinion regarding U.S. beef insufficient. But, even as he apologized, he downplayed concerns about American beef and urged lawmakers to ratify the bilateral trade deal. Lee's popularity has plummeted in the wake of the agreement, as critics have accused him of risking South Korean health in an effort to secure a trade deal with the United States.
IRAQ: Iraqi police say eight people, including two children, were killed in a U.S. military strike north of Baghdad. The police officials say the helicopter strike targeted at least one vehicle near the town of Baiji Wednesday. The U.S. military confirmed there was an incident involving U.S. forces and said an investigation was underway. Earlier, the U.S. military said American soldiers shot dead 11 insurgents in eastern Baghdad during security operations on Wednesday. The military says the militants were members of special groups, a term used for Shi'ite insurgents backed by Iran.
RAN BLAST - US: Iran has lodged an official protest against the United States, accusing the U.S. of supporting those behind a deadly explosion at a mosque in April. Iran's ISNA news agency says the charge d'affaires of the Swiss Embassy -- which represents the U.S. in Iran -- was summoned to the Foreign Ministry and given evidence and documents. Tehran blames the April 12th explosion at the mosque in the southern city of Shiraz on a "terrorist and counter-revolutionary group" working with the support of the U.S. The blast killed 14 people and wounded more than 200.
SOUTH AFRICA - VIOLENCE: South African President Thabo Mbeki has ordered the deployment of army troops to help end attacks on foreigners that have plagued areas of the nation for more than a week. In a statement Wednesday, the office of the presidency says Mr. Mbeki approved a request from the South African Police Service for involvement of the South African Defense Force in stopping the ongoing attacks in Gauteng province. South African police say 42 people have died and more than 16 thousand have been displaced by violence in the last week.
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