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North Korea Denies Rumored Illness of Kim Jong Il


NOKOR - KIM: North Korean officials say there is no problem with Kim Jong Il, as speculation grows over the top leader's health. But South Korean intelligence services believe that Mr. Kim has suffered a debilitating stroke.The North's number two leader, Kim Yong Nam, told Japan's Kyodo news agency that "nothing is wrong" with the North Korean leader. A senior North Korean diplomat said reports that Mr. Kim is seriously ill are part of a "conspiracy."But South Korean lawmakerWon Hye-young says parliament has been told by intelligence officials the North Korean leader has suffered a stroke that has left him unable to walk.

THAILAND - POLITICS: Thailand's ruling political party is meeting in Bangkok today to discuss a possible successor to ousted Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej. Mr. Samak was forced to resign Tuesday after Thai's Constitutional Court ruled he violated the constitution by accepting payment for appearing on a television cooking show while in office.His People Power Party, the largest in Thailand's six-party ruling coalition, has vowed to nominate the ex-premier for the post. But the 73-year-old Samak has been in seclusion since Tuesday's court decision, and there is speculation he will reject the party's nomination.The Thai parliament will meet Friday to elect a new prime minister.

MALAYSIA - ANWAR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim insists he is "on track" with his plan to topple the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by September 16th.Anwar made the declaration today outside a Kuala Lumpur courtroom, where a hearing was held on the sodomy charges brought against him. He is accused of having sexual relations with a former male aide. Anwar says the charges are politically motivated.The former deputy prime minister says he is working to get 30 lawmakers belonging to the ruling party to defect to his three-party coalition. But around 50 lawmakers have been sent on an overseas tour.

BURMA - EXPLOSION: Burma's state-run news agenciessay three people were injured in an explosion aboard a passenger bus in the main city of Rangoon today.The blast occurred days after Burma's police chief announced the arrest of three opposition members in connection with the bombing of pro-government offices in July. Two of the suspects are members of the National League for Democracy party, headed by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.The cause of the explosion is under investigation.

JAPAN - POLITICS: Five veteran Japanese politicians have officially submitted their names to replace outgoing Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda.The five, including ex-Foreign Minister Taro Aso, informed the ruling Liberal Democratic Party today of their intentions to succeed Mr. Fukuda as party president. The other candidates include Nobutera Ishihara, Shigeru Ishiba, Kaoru Yosano and Yuriko Koike, who is hoping to become Japan's first female prime minister.Aso, the LDP's current secretary-general, is regarded as the favorite to win the September 22nd party vote. The winner is almost certain to become prime minister, because of the LDP's majority in the powerful lower house of parliament.

GEORGIA: A top State Department official says the United States and Russia may be in for a difficult period.U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried told Congress Tuesday that Russian leaders must change their path and not be allowed to draw a new line in Europe.Fried said it is in the United States' interest to help Georgia recover economically, restore its sovereignty, and address what he calls its "legitimate military needs."A top Pentagon official told the lawmakers that a defense department team is going to Georgia this week. He said the team will assess how to help Georgia rebuild its military after the brief war with Russia over two breakaway Georgian regions.

RUSSIA - POLAND: Russian news reports say a top defense official has warned that Russia may point ballistic weapons at a U.S. missile defense system in Europe.News agencies today quote General Nikolai Solovtsyov as saying Russia may take the action if the United States moves forward with a missile defense plan in Poland and the Czech Republic.The United States and Poland signed a missile defense agreement in Warsaw last month. It allows the United States to deploy 10 defensive missiles in Poland. The United States also plans to set up guidance radar in the Czech Republic.

OIL PRICES: Oil prices began rebounding today after oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) moved to cut production.The group agreed earlier today to cut production by more than half-a-million barrels a day, one day after oil prices fell to a five-month low .The decision came as a surprise since the head of OPEC said Tuesday that ministers would likely keep production levels steady. Algerian Energy Minister Chakib Khelil had told Bloomberg Television that cutting production would do more harm than good.

ATOM SMASHER: A team of European scientists today initiated a vastly ambitious experiment they say could provide the answers to the origins of the universe.Scientists fired the first protons through the 10-billion dollar atom smasher called the Large Hadron Collider, which features a 27-kilometer long underground tunnel near Geneva.Project leaders with the European Organization for Nuclear Research say the machine will create the conditions that were present less than one-billionth of a second after the Big Bang -- the phenomenon many scientists say created the universe.

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