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Bush Welcomes North Korean Declaration on its Nuclear Program


URGENT: NOKOR- NUCLEAR: North Korea has submitted its long-awaited nuclear declaration, and U.S. President George Bush says this is an important step forward for all the people of the Korean peninsula. North Korea's declaration was handed over to Chinese officials in Beijing today, nearly six months after it was due. Mr. Bush said this will be followed by further action as soon as Friday, when the North Koreans say they will destroy a cooling tower at their main nuclear facility. Mr. Bush says the multilateral diplomacy that produced the North Korean agreement was the key factor in the negotiating process, and he thanked China, South Korea, Russia and Japan for their part in the talks.

JAPAN - G-8 MINISTERS: Foreign ministers from the world's eight richest nations are in the historic Japanese city of Kyoto today for the start of a two-day meeting. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is joining her counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and host Japan for talks that will lay the groundwork for the Group of Eight leadership summit next month in the northern Japanese city of Hokkaido. The ministers had been awaiting today's declaration from North Korea of its nuclear programs. The U.S. is expected to remove Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, a move frowned upon by Tokyo.

SOKOR - US BEEF: The South Korean government has officially lifted a ban on U.S. beef imports. The Ministry of Public Administration issued new rules today (Thursday) that spell out guidelines for the inspection and quarantine of beef. The rules are taking effect days after U.S. trade officials agreed to limit exports of beef to cattle 30 months old or younger. More than 48-hundred metric tons of American beef shipped earlier are awaiting inspection in customs and quarantine facilities. Seoul announced in April it had agreed to lift a ban on U.S. beef imports imposed in 2003 after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in the United States.

THAILAND - HMONG: A prominent aid agency says Thailand forcibly repatriated 800 ethnic Hmong refugees back to their native, communist-run Laos. Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) says claims by the government in Bangkok that the repatriations were voluntary are "hard to believe." The refugees had been living in a camp in Phetchabun, north of Bangkok. Thai and Lao officials have long insisted the Hmong are economic refugees who hope to be resettled in a third country. But international human rights groups say some of the Hmong could face persecution if sent back to their native country. The Hmong fought alongside U.S. forces when the Vietnam War spilled into Laos.

CAMBODIA - POLITICS: Campaigning began today in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh for next month's general elections. A total of 11 parties are competing for 123 parliamentary seats, including the bloc named after main opposition leader Sam Rainsy. Rainsy led a procession through the streets of Phnom Penh, urging voters to reject Prime Minister Hun Sen and his ruling Cambodian People's Party. Hun Sen has ruled Cambodia since 1985, and his party has tightened its hold on power over the years. He has been accused of using strong-armed tactics against political rivals. More than eight million Cambodians are eligible to vote in the July 27th election.

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says President Robert Mugabe risks being seen as an illegitimate leader if he goes ahead with Friday's presidential run-off election. In an interview with the British newspaper "The Times," Mr. Tsvangirai urges Mr. Mugabe to hold talks before the vote to bring an end to post-election violence that had left dozens of opposition supporters dead. The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change withdrew from the run-off election Sunday, saying the violence had made the election impossible. Mr. Tsvangirai has taken refuge in the Dutch embassy in Harare because of safety concerns. Mr. Tsvangirai's second-in-command, Tendai Biti, was released on bail today after being held for two weeks on charges of treason.

BANGLADESH - CORRUPTION: The younger son of former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been granted permission by a court in Dhaka to be tried in absentia on graft charges. A lawyer for Arafat Koko Rahman said Wednesday he will appear in court on Rahman's behalf. The court's decision paves the way for Rahman's temporary release from jail and medical treatment abroad. Rahman, who faces the same corruption charges as his mother and older brother, Tarique, is reported to be suffering from asthma and lung problems. Ms. Zia, the head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, refused a similar deal to go abroad for medical treatment, calling it a political trap.

NEPAL - FUEL: A general strike to protest high fuel prices in Nepal has shut down schools, markets and businesses in the capital, Katmandu. Officials say today's strike, organized by four Nepalese political parties, has left Katmandu's streets deserted of vehicles. The country's state run oil corporation raised the price of gasoline 25 percent this month to pay for the rising price of crude oil. Earlier this week, striking transport workers left thousands of people stranded across Nepal to protest the price hike. The government recently agreed to give students a 45 percent discount on public transportation costs, in response to near daily protests organized by a student union (the All Nepal National Free Students Union).

PITT - JOLIE - IRAQ - US: American actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have donated one million dollars to support the education of children in Iraq and the United States affected by war. The Hollywood couple donated the money from their foundation to a coalition of children's groups called the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict. The groups provide counseling and educational supplies to children who have lost parents, homes or schooling opportunities. The Education Partnership said Wednesday the actors gave half-a-million dollars to aid groups operating in Iraq and another half-a-million to organizations working in the U.S. Jolie and Pitt have given millions of dollars to charities in recent years.

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