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Iran Tests Missiles Amid Tensions with US, Israel


IRAN - MISSILE: Iran has test-fired nine long and medium range missiles, including one officials say is capable of reaching Israel. The missile launch comes amid increased tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Iran's state television station reported the missiles tested today included a new version of the Shahab-Three missile, said to have a range of two-thousand kilometers. A top commander for Iran's Revolutionary Guards said the military exercise was to show Iran's readiness to defend itself against "enemies." A day earlier, an aide to Iran's supreme leader warned that Israel and the U.S. naval fleet in the Persian Gulf would be the first targets to be "set on fire" if the U.S. attacks Iran over its nuclear activities.

G-8 SUMMIT: U.S. President George Bush says "significant progress" was made on climate change and other issues at this year's summit for leaders of the world's eight major industrialized nations. Speaking with reporters today in northern Japan before he headed back to Washington, Mr. Bush said a strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050 is important because it brings all major economies to the negotiating table. Mr. Bush also praised efforts that were made at the three-day summit to resist protectionism, fight disease and promote development. During a meeting today, major rich and developing nations also pledged to cooperate in the fight against climate change.

BUSH - CHINA: Chinese President Hu Jintao has praised U.S. President George Bush for agreeing to attend the opening ceremonies of the upcoming Beijing Olympics. The two leaders held bilateral talks today on the sidelines of the Group of Eight leadership summit in the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido. Mr. Bush recently announced he will attend the ceremonies despite calls to stay away from some human rights activists upset over China's rights record, especially its recent crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet. But during a joint press conference after meeting Mr. Hu, Mr. Bush said he is looking forward to attending the ceremonies.

CHINA - OLYMPICS: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, despite an earlier threat to boycott the event over China's crackdown on protests in Tibet. Mr. Sarkozy's office said the French leader confirmed his intention to take part in the August eighth ceremony during a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on the sidelines of the G-8 summit in Japan. Mr. Sarkozy indicated earlier this year he might boycott the ceremony following China's crackdown on Tibetan protests. Last week, Mr. Sarkozy said his decision would depend on progress in talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials.

CAMBODIA - KHMER ROUGE: A former minister in Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime has lost her appeal to be released from detention before her trial at a United Nations-backed genocide tribunal. Lawyers for 76-year-old Ieng Thirith urged the tribunal to free their client because she suffers from poor mental and physical health. But the court ruled today it was necessary for her to remain behind bars. Ieng Thirith was the social affairs minister during the Khmer Rouge's brutal four-year rule of Cambodia beginning in 1975. She is one of five ex-Khmer officials charged with crimes against humanity in connection with the deaths of as many as two million Cambodians who were either starved, overworked or executed during that period.

SINGAPORE - COURTS: The world's largest association of lawyers says Singapore is falling short of international human rights standards and has compromised the independence of its judiciary. The London-based International Bar Association released a 72-page report through its human rights division on Tuesday. The report criticizes the city-state's government for limiting freedom of expression, tight control over media outlets, and filing expensive defamation lawsuits to financially break political opponents. The IBA says Singapore can no longer claim that civil and political rights are secondary to economic rights, now that it has become one of the most economically advanced states in the Asian region.

IRAQ: The Bush administration says it remains opposed to setting a date for withdrawing U.S.-led forces from Iraq that is not based on conditions on the ground. A White House spokeswoman told reporters in Japan today that the U.S. has always been opposed to what she referred to as an "arbitrary" withdrawal date. She said Iraqi leaders agree with the U.S. stance that the decision must be based on conditions on the ground. On Tuesday, Iraqi national security adviser Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said Baghdad will reject any security deal with Washington that does not include a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. led forces.

RICE - EUROPE: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to visit Georgia today, amid tensions between Washington and Moscow over the former Soviet republic. Tuesday Rice criticized Russia's behavior toward Georgia, saying it is adding to tensions in the area. She noted that Georgia is an independent state and called on both countries to avoid "provocative" actions. U.S. officials have been dismayed by a series of Russian moves involving Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking fighting and the dispatch of Russian peacekeepers to the region. Georgia accuses the peacekeepers of backing the separatists.

RUSSIA - US MISSILE SHIELD: Russian President Dmitri Medvedev says Moscow will consider countermeasures if the United States goes ahead with a plan to build a missile defense shield in eastern Europe. Mr. Medvedev told reporters after the Group of Eight summit in Japan today that Moscow is very upset by the agreement signed Tuesday in Prague by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schawarzenberg. The deal will allow Washington to put part of a missile defense system on Czech soil. The pact still needs the approval of the Czech parliament, where about half the lawmakers are opposed.

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