US - IRAN: U.S. President Barack Obama says he seeks a "new beginning" in
relations between Iran and the United States, with greater
opportunities for partnership and commerce.
Mr. Obama spoke in a videotaped message Friday marking Nowruz - when
Iranians, Kurds and others in the region celebrate the new year.
In words directed to Iran's leaders, President Obama noted serious
differences but said his administration is committed to diplomacy and
pursuing constructive ties among the United States, Iran and the
AFGHANISTAN - VIOLENCE: Afghan and U.S.-led troops have killed 33 militants following a
roadside blast that took the life of a prominent anti-Taliban lawmaker.
The U.S. military says that Afghan forces came under fire from
insurgents in the Gereshk district of the country's volatile Helmand
province on Thursday.
Officials say the troops returned fire once they determined there were
no civilians in the area, killing 30 insurgents. One Afghan soldier was
Helmand province has been called the heart of the Taliban's growing
insurgency, and a U.S. spokesman called the operation "yet another
blow" to the region's militants.
ISRAEL - POLITICS: Israeli Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has been granted two more weeks to form a new government.
Mr. Netanyahu met Friday with President Shimon Peres and asked him for an extension until April 3rd.
Mr. Netanyahu was tasked with forming a new government following
elections last month but has been trying to build a national unity
government with rivals from the more moderate Labor and Kadima parties.
He says a broad coalition government is needed to deal with the security and economic problems facing the country.
KOREAS - TENSITONS: South Korean officials say North Korea has told them that it will
restore a military communications hotline that was severed 12 days ago.
The South's defense ministry says the North plans to make the hotline operational again starting Saturday.
Nearly two weeks ago the North Korean military cut the line in protest
of U.S. - South Korean military exercises taking place in the South
since earlier this month.
The lines were used to authorize crossings to and from a joint
industrial estate north of the border. Since March, the day the drills
started, the border has been closed several times.
US - CHINA - MILITARY: The top U.S. commander in the Pacific region says a recent
confrontation between a U.S. Navy ship and several Chinese vessels
indicates China is unwilling to behave acceptably in the South China
U.S. Navy Admiral Timothy Keating told the Senate Armed Services
committee Thursday that despite the U.S. military's desire to build
understanding and create trust with the Chinese, its interactions with
the Chinese military have fallen short of expectations.
Keating called for a renewal of direct military exchanges, which China froze after a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan last October.
WORLD ECONOMY: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has sharply lowered
its economic forecast and now says the world economy will shrink for
the first time in 60 years during 2009.
In a study released Thursday, the global lender said the world economy
could shrink as much as one percent. The IMF study says advanced
economies will suffer a "deep recession," with Japan falling a sharp
5.8 percent and the United States economy declining at a 2.6 percent
Meanwhile, there was more discouraging news Thursday in the U.S., the world's largest economy.
AIG BONUSES: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday imposing a
90 percent tax on bonuses paid to executives of companies that received
federal bailout money.
The measure would affect employees making at least $250,000 a year at
businesses that received at least $5 billion in taxpayer funds. The
bill passed in a vote of 328-to-93 Thursday.
The Senate is considering a similar bill.
In a statement, President Barack Obama hailed the House vote as
"rightly" reflecting "outrage" over the "lavish bonuses" paid to
executives by the troubled insurance giant AIG (American International Group).
PACIFIC TSUNAMI ALERT: Seismologists say a major earthquake near Tonga early Friday local time has triggered a tsunami in the South Pacific.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center based in Hawaii said the quake
caused a tsunami wave capable of damaging coastlines in the region.
The center issued the tsunami warning for Tonga, Samoa and Fiji. It
said Pacific rim residents as far away as Hawaii could experience a
change in sea levels.
The United States Geological Services the quake of magnitude of 7.9
struck about 210 kilometers from the Tongan capital, Nuku'alof (at a depth of 10 kilometers).
Listen to our World News for details.