ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: The Israeli military is continuing air and artillery strikes in the Gaza Strip as part of an operation to secure the release of a soldier kidnapped by Palestinian militants. But the military says it has delayed a planned ground invasion at the request of Egypt, which has been working to the free the soldier. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Thursday Hamas militants have agreed to a conditional release of the soldier. Israel has not commented on Mr. Mubarak's statement, but has said it wants the soldier released without conditions.
BIN LADEN TAPE: A new videotape purportedly from al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden has praised the slain al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a joint U.S. - Iraqi military operation earlier this month (June 7th). The authenticity of the tape posted on the Internet this (Friday) morning could not be immediately verified. On the tape, a voice resembling that of bin Laden hailed Zarqawi as the " lion of jihad (holy war)" and called him a martyr. The speaker called on President Bush to return Zarqawi's body to his family, and warned that the fight against the United States and its allies will continue.
JAPAN - US: President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi wrap up their two-day meeting with a visit today (Friday) to Elvis Presley's mansion. The two leaders, accompanied by Mrs. Bush, will tour Graceland - the Memphis, Tennessee estate of the late "King of Rock and Roll." Mr. Koizumi is an avid Presley fan. The president and the prime minister discussed North Korea's possible test-fire of a long-range missile during talks at the White House Thursday. They warned Pyongyang not to carry out a test. Mr. Bush said it would be "unacceptable," and Mr. Koizumi warned of "various pressures" on the Stalinist state if it goes ahead with a test.
CHINA - POL: Chinese President Hu Jintao is calling for intensified efforts to stamp out corruption within the Communist Party of China. Mr. Hu made the comments today (Friday) during a nationally televised speech marking the 85th anniversary of the founding of the party in China. He said that anti-corruption efforts and creating a clean government are a "strategic mission." He said that if the party loses the people's support, it will lose its vitality. China has seen a spate of arrests and firings of party members recently for allegations of graft. Anger over corruption has fueled a rising number of civil disturbances. Chinese officials say there were at least 87-thousand such incidents last year.
MALAYSIA / HUMAN RIGHTS: Malaysia's foreign minister has called for an institution to promote and protect human rights in the 10 ASEAN member nations. Syed Hamid said that such an institution would have, what he called, "a positive ripple effect" not just on countries in the organization but also other countries in Asia. The speech was delivered in written form to an ASEAN (Association of Southeastern Asian Nations) workshop on human rights in Kuala Lumpur Thursday. It said that a human rights mechanism would enable ASEAN nations to help each other strengthen the rule of law, judicial systems and legal infrastructure. ASEAN includes authoritarian regimes in Burma and Laos.
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