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UN Security Council Votes to Extend Darfur Peacekeepers


UN - SUDAN - DARFUR: The United Nations Security Council has voted to extend the mandate of peacekeepers in Sudan's Darfur region for another year. All but one of the 15 Security Council member countries voted Thursday to approve the measure. The United States supported the extension, but abstained after its objections delayed the vote for several hours. The U.S. objected to language in the resolution that raised concerns about the International Criminal Court's (ICC) move to indict Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir for genocide. Two weeks ago, the tribunal's chief prosecutor asked the court to issue an arrest warrant for Mr. Bashir.

CHINA - OLYMPICS - HU: Chinese President Hu Jintao says the upcoming Beijing Olympics should not be turned into a political forum to express grievances over his country's human rights record. Speaking during a rare press conference with foreign reporters today,Mr. Hu says it is inevitable that people from different nations do not see eye-to-eye on issues. But the Chinese leader says inserting politics runs counter to the Olympic spirit. Mr. Hu also says the Games will leave an economic and spiritual legacy in China for years to come. He says China has utilized scientific and technological innovations, including solar power, in building the many Olympic venues and facilities.

AFGHANISTAN - VIOLENCE: A group representing 100 aid agencies in Afghanistan says violence there has reached its highest levels since 2001. The Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR) issued a report today, blaming ongoing fighting for the deaths of 25-hundred people so far this year, one-thousand of them civilians. It says 260 civilians have been killed in July alone, the highest death toll for any month in the past six years. Officials say insurgent attacks are responsible for two-thirds of all reported civilian casualties. They also warn Taliban militants have launched a "vigorous, systematic terror campaign" in the country's south and east.

US - PAKISTAN: Pakistan has rejected U.S. media reports that members of the country's intelligence agency helped plan the deadly bombing of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan last month. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq today called the allegation, first reported by "The New York Times" newspaper, "rubbish" and "baseless." U.S. officials are quoted (by the Times and the Washington Post) as saying American intelligence agencies believe elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) played a role in the bombing. The officials say the conclusion is based on intercepted communications between Pakistani officials and militants who carried out the attack.

PALESTINIANS - ARRESTS: At least 14 schoolgirls have been killed after an explosion rocked their dormitory in southern Turkey. Officials in Taskent say it appears that a gas leak caused the explosion in the three-story building early today, as the girls slept, bringing the dormitory crashing down. Authorities say more than 25 girls have been pulled from the rubble, some with serious burn injuries. They fear as many as a dozen more girls are buried under the flattened building. Officials say more than 40 girls between the ages of eight and 16 had been staying at the dormitory while attending classes on the Koran. The building belongs to a religious foundation.

TURKEY - DORM COLLAPSE: Hamas security forces have arrested senior leaders of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's faction Fatah in the Gaza Strip, increasing tensions betwen rival factions. Hamas, which controls Gaza, said the arrests today were a direct response to the recent detention of Hamas leaders in the Fatah-controlled West Bank. On Thursday, President Abbas ordered his security forces to release hundreds of Hamas members detained in a recent series of West Bank raids. Hamas says, so far, none of the officials have been freed. Hamas recently widened a crackdown against rival factions in the Gaza Strip.

JAPAN - POLITICS: Embattled Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is planning to reshuffle his cabinet today in a bid to boost his low approval ratings. Japanese news agencies say Mr. Fukuda is expected to name Kaoru Yosana as his new economics minister. Yosana is a strong advocate for raising the national sales tax to combat Japan's growing national debt. The prime minister will also name Bunmei Ibuki as finance minister. Ibuki, a former official in the finance ministry, is currently secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, second only behind Mr. Fukuda. He is expected to be replaced in the post by ex-Foreign Minster Taro Aso, who lost the party leadership to Mr. Fukuda last year.

KOREAS - SHOOTING: South Korean investigators say a South Korean woman shot to death by a North Korean soldier at a mountain resort last month may have been standing still or moving slowly when she was fired upon. Park Wang-ja was shot twice while walking on the beach near the North's nearby Kumgang resort. North Korea claims the 53-year-old housewife crossed into a restricted area guarded by its military, and was shot after she ignored warnings not to run away. But Kim Dwong-hwan, a member of the South Korean investigative team, says a re-enactment shows Park was shot within a range of 100 meters.

CAMBODIA - THAILAND: Buddhist monks and Cambodian soldiers held a prayer vigil earlier today at an ancient temple along the Thai-Cambodian border that is at the center of a military standoff between the Asian neighbors. Hundreds of troops from both sides have been deployed near the 11th-century Preah Vihear temple for two weeks, since Cambodian authorities arrested three Thai activists. The activists were detained for illegally entering Cambodia to reach the temple. The foreign ministers of both nations announced Monday that they are willing to redeploy their troops, but did not provide a timeline.

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