Iraq: Iraqi authorities have imposed a ban on vehicle traffic in Baghdad and restive areas to the north -- apparently to prevent reprisal insurgent attacks following the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Interior Ministry said the ban will remain in effect during the hours (11.00 am to 03.00 pm local time) when most Iraqis go to mosques for Friday prayers.
U.S. and Iraqi officials Thursday announced the death of Zarqawi, killed in a U.S. air strike on a "safe house" near the city of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.
Afghan - Omar: A written statement purportedly from Taleban leader Mullah Omar mourns the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and vows to keep fighting in Afghanistan.
In the statement that surfaced today (Friday) in Pakistan, Omar said Zarqawi's death - described as "martyrdom" - would not weaken the resistance movement in Iraq or stop the battle in Afghanistan. The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed.
Laos Pol: The national assembly of Laos has
appointed the nation's Communist Party chief as president. Seventy-year-old Choummaly Sayasone succeeds 82-year-old President Khamtai Siphandone. Earlier this year, Mr. Choummaly was named Communist Party leader after Mr. Khamtai stepped down. Historically, the Lao Communist Party leader is chosen as president.
Also, the parliament named Bouasone Bouphavan as the new prime minister. He was promoted from deputy prime minister. The assembly met today (Thursday) for the first time since elections last month in which the Communist Party won all but two of the 115 legislative seats. The party has ruled Laos since it came to power at the end of the Vietnam War.
Despite recent moves to liberalize its economy, Laos is among the world's poorest nations and is governed by a secretive regime with little tolerance for opposition.
Thai King: Thailand's king has made a rare public appearance marking his 60th year on the throne, calling for unity among his people following months of political upheaval.
Tens of thousands of Thais crowded the streets near the royal palace in Bangkok today (Friday) in hopes of catching a glimpse of King Bhumibol Adulyadej (POO-mee-puhn ah-DUHN-yeh-deht), the world's longest-reigning monarch.
Standing on a balcony of the royal palace, the king said unity is the basis for all Thais to help preserve and bring prosperity to the country.
Indonesia - Australia: Indonesia's Foreign Ministry says its ambassador to Australia is to return to Canberra in the next several days, following a diplomatic dispute between the two nations concerning Papua asylum seekers. The ministry said today (Friday) that Ambassador Hamzah Thayeb is returning to Australia to prepare for Australian Prime Minister John Howard's upcoming visit to Jakarta.
Indonesia recalled its ambassador in March after Canberra decided to grant visas to 42 refugees from Indonesia's Papua province.
World Cup: Hundreds of millions of fans across the globe will put their lives on hold and gather around television screens as football's (soccer's) World Cup tournament begins today (Friday) in Germany.
Teams from 32 qualifying nations will compete in the tournament, which is held every four years in a different country. The teams are divided into eight groups of four (in round-robin play), so each team is guaranteed three games. The tournament will be held in 12 cities across Germany. As the host nation, Germany will open the World Cup with a first round match against Group-A rival Costa Rica in Munich.
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