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Beijing Opens 2008 Olympics


CHINA - OLYMPICS: China has officially begun the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, with fireworks lighting the night sky above its national stadium. The event is taking place at the Olympic stadium known to many as the "Birds Nest." Today's three-and-a-half hour Olympic opening ceremony was designed by internationally acclaimed director Zhang Yimou, and involves thousands of performers. More than 80 world leaders are attending the lavish ceremony, which is being watched by 91-thousand people in the stadium. At a lunch for foreign leaders and dignitaries earlier in the day, Chinese President Hu Jintao called the Olympics an opportunity for the world to build upon the Olympic spirit of "solidarity, friendship and peace." (News Updates)

TIBETAN EXILE PROTESTS: Nepalese police have arrested at least 800 Tibetan exiles protesting at the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu to call attention to China's actions in their homeland. Groups of protesters have been arriving at the embassy throughout the day today, in defiance of a ban by the Nepalese government. Some of the protesters shaved their heads and painted themselves to look like the flag of the Tibetan government-in-exile. A senior police official says most of those arrested will be released today. Tibetan exiles have been holding regular demonstrations against the Chinese government since March, when deadly clashes broke outbetween protesters and Chinese authorities in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. It is the second day in a row the exiles have protested in Kathmandu.

BUSH - CHINA: U.S. President George Bush has made another appeal for freedom of expression in China, hours ahead of the start of the Beijing Olympic Games. Mr. Bush spoke today during a dedication ceremony for a new U.S. embassy complex in the Chinese capital. He said societies that allow the free expression of ideas tend to be the most prosperous and the most peaceful. The U.S. president also said the new embassy reflects the solid foundations of U.S.-China relations. He noted that China opened a new embassy in Washington last week. Deputy Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo participated in the Beijing ceremony.

GEORGIA - OSSETIA: Georgian forces have fought their way into the capital of the breakaway region of South Ossetia and say they will cease their assault for three hours to allow civilians to leave. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili announced earlier today an all out offensive to regain control of the breakaway republic. Georgian tanks and troops, backed by artillery have moved into the region and surrounded provincial capital Tskhinvali, where they are battling Russian-backed separatists for the city's center. South Ossetian officials say 15 people were killed overnight in the city. Mr. Saakashvili also demanded Russia stop air attacks on Georgian cities -- which Russia denies carrying out.

PAKISTAN POLITICS: Aides to Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf say he will fight an attempt by the country's ruling coalition to impeach him. The aides say Mr. Musharraf met with top advisors late into the night Thursday, after Pakistan's ruling coalition announced impeachment proceedings would begin immediately. They say the Pakistani president has no plans to resign and that he will defend his actions. Earlier, at a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari and the head of Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif, said they want to strip Mr. Musharraf of the presidency and restore the judges he ousted last year.

MALAYSIA - ANWAR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he is still on track to take power, despite being formally charged with sodomy. Anwar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur today that he is close to convincing enough lawmakers in the ruling National Front coalition to defect to his three-party opposition coalition by mid-September. The National Front has a 30-seat parliamentary majority after losing its two-thirds majority control in March elections. The former deputy prime minister pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges he had sexual relations with a former male aide in June. The judge granted him bail, allowing him to campaign in an August 26th by-election for his old parliamentary seat in northern Penang state.

BURMA - ANNIVERSARY: Security is tight in the main Burmese city of Rangoon today as residents quietly mark the 20th anniversary of a major pro-democracy uprising. Millions of Burmese took to streets on August 8, 1988 to protest against the ruling military junta, which had been in power since 1962. The uprising brought down longtime junta chief Ne Win, but the military eventually regained control after a bloody crackdown that left an estimated three-thousand people dead. Armed guards have posted at several important sites in Rangoon, including the famed Shwedagon pagoda, Burma's holiest shrine. Security has tightened in Burma since the military's harsh crackdown on protests last year in which 31 people were killed.

AUSTRALIA - DRUGS: Australian police say they have seized more than 15 million pills of ecstasy, an amount described as the world's largest haul of the illegal hallucinogenic drug. The pills, weighing nearly five tons, were discovered in the western city of Melbourne in June of last year. The drugs, shipped to Australia from Italy, were hidden in cans of tomatoes, and had a street value of about 400 million dollars. The ecstasy prompted a surveillance operation that turned up a shipment of 150 kilometers of cocaine last month. The shipment led to arrests of 16 people during raids across Australia, as well as Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy.

US - IRAQ TROOPS: Iraqi officials say Baghdad and Washington are close to a deal for U.S. combat troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2010 or early 2011. Iraqi officials familiar with the negotiations said Thursday that both sides have reached a preliminary agreement on the withdrawal timeline. The sources include members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa party. They say the proposed timeline sets an initial target for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraqi cities and remain on their bases by June 30th, 2009. The Iraqi officials say that under a deal, Baghdad could ask U.S. forces to stay in Iraq longer if security conditions require. U.S. officials say there has been progress in security talks with Baghdad, but that there is no final deal.

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