U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan made a surprise visit to Iraq today (Saturday), arriving just as a bomb ripped through a market in the capital, killing at least four people. Mr. Annan held a news conference with Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari after the two met in Baghdad. The U.N. leader's visit comes on the heels of stops in Baghdad by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice joined ministers and non-governmental groups from Europe and the Middle East today (Saturday) at a conference in Bahrain aimed at spreading democracy in the region. During the two-day "Forum for the Future" opening today, Ms. Rice is expected to stress the U.S. view that economic and political reforms are needed in the Arab world to defeat terrorism. Some Arab states insist that any change must come from within, rather than forced upon them by the West.
South Asian leaders attending a regional summit in Bangladesh have called for greater cooperation in reconstruction efforts after the massive Kashmir earthquake and last year's Indian Ocean tsunami. Trumpets sounded in Dhaka (today / Saturday) amid tight security as leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka opened the annual summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, or SAARC.
Burma has rejected a U.S. State Department report listing it as a serious violator of religious freedoms. In a press release Friday, the military government called it regrettable that the U.S. Department of State designated Burma, along with some other Asian nations, as a Country of Particular Concern. The Seventh Annual International Religious Freedom Report was released on November eighth. In it, the State Department accused Burma of promoting Buddhism over other religions, adding that non-Buddhists often face government monitoring and discrimination.
Japan's Princess Sayako, the only daughter of Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, has bid farewell to her parents on the way to life as a commoner. Sayako, wearing traditional purple ceremonial court robes, prayed at a temple inside the Imperial Palace before meeting with her parents today (Saturday), three days before her wedding. When the princess marries 40-year-old Tokyo city employee Yoshiki Kuroda, she will give up her title and her home at the palace.
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