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Iran Tests Long-Range Missiles Ahead of Nuclear Talks


IRAN: Iran says it has successfully tested two long-range missiles that defense analysts say could be capable of hitting Israel and southern Europe. State television broadcast images Monday of a surface-to-surface missile blasting off from desert terrain in a cloud of dust. Iran tested the solid fuel-powered missiles (Shahab 3 and Sejil) on the second day of military exercises designed to show off the Islamic Republic's defense capabilities. Some western defense analysts believe at least one of the missiles is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. The United States and other world powers will push Iran to fully disclose its nuclear activities at a meeting in Geneva Thursday. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Sunday (on CBS's "Face the Nation") tougher sanctions will be pursued against Iran if the talks fail. The meeting follows the disclosure last week that Tehran is building a new uranium enrichment plant Iran.

GERMANY ELECTIONS: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is claiming victory after exit polls gave her Christian Democrats and their new pro-business coalition partner a big win in Sunday's parliamentary election. Ms. Merkel told cheering supporters that she wants to see herself as chancellor of all Germans, so that conditions can improve. But she said her new government will have a tough job ahead. Two German television networks project the Christian Democrats and Ms. Merkel's choice as a new governing partner, the Free Democrats, will win 48 percent of the vote. The current coalition partner, the left-leaning Social Democrats, are expected to take 23 percent -- their lowest finish since the end of World War Two.

LAOS-UNGA: Addressing the United Nations General Assembly on Saturday, Mr. ThonglounSisoulith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, called on member states to share the responsibility of reforming the United Nations to make the world body more comprehensive, transparent and balanced, and consistent with the United Nations Charter. He added that his country welcomed the launch of intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform and will actively participate in the reform movement. Mr. Thongloun also discussed urgent issues facing the world such as nuclear proliferation, and the problem of unexploded ordnance. We will bring you more of Mr. Thongloun's speech on Thursday in our Lao Diaspora segment. Please stay tuned.

UN-NOKOR: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has met with a senior North Korean official and urged Pyongyang to resume six-party negotiations on dismantling its nuclear weapons program. A U.N. statement said Mr. Ban met North Korea's vice foreign minister (Park Gil Yon) Sunday in New York. He encouraged the North to follow up on recent signals that it intends to restart talks with the U.S., South Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Earlier this month, China's official Xinhua news agency reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Il told a visiting Chinese official he is willing to participate in both bilateral and multilateral talks on his country's controversial nuclear program.

PHILIPPINES STORM: Officials in the Philippines have raised the death toll from a tropical storm that tore through several northern provinces to 100, with 32 missing. Rescue and relief operations continued Monday after Tropical Storm Ketsana dumped nearly a month's worth of rain on the Philippine capital and more than 20 provinces in just 12 hours. Officials say Saturday's storm displaced over 300,000 people. Tens of thousands were brought to evacuation centers in schools, churches and other emergency shelters. The storm swept away houses. Hundreds of vehicles were stalled in floodwaters around Manila. Some residents were still stranded on rooftops Sunday afternoon as emergency workers picked up survivors who had spent the night drenched and waiting for rescue.

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