ISRAEL - LEBANON: Israel has widened its military campaign in Lebanon and tightened a sea and air blockade of the country, following the capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah guerrillas. Lebanese authorities say Israeli warplanes struck the Beirut international airport again today (Friday) -- the third raid on the facility in the past 24 hours. The airport has been closed since the first bombing damaged its runways Thursday. Israel also carried out air strikes on a Beirut suburb, where Hezbollah is headquartered. Lebanese security officials say at least three people were killed and more than 50 others wounded the attacks. A bridge, a fuel storage facility at a power plant and the main road to the airport were hit.
MIDEAST REACTION: The United Nations Security Council is to hold an urgent meeting at the request of Lebanon today (Friday) on the escalating crisis in the Middle East. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has dispatched a team of veteran U.N. diplomats to the region. He has also held intensive telephone consultations with various world leaders. President Bush said Thursday Israel has the right to defend itself, and he criticized Hezbollah for sparking the latest violence with its kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Israel to restrain itself, and also said there is no doubt that others, including Syria and Iran, are encouraging Hezbollah. Russian President Vladimir Putin called (today / Friday) on all sides in the conflict to immediately end military action. Earlier, Russia joined France in describing Israel's offensive as a "disproportionate" reaction to the soldiers' capture.
NOKOR MISSILES: Japan is calling for a U.N. Security Council vote today (Friday) on a resolution calling for sanctions against North Korea due to its recent missile tests. Japanese Prime Mininster Junichiro Koizumi said he wants the issue resolved before the Group of Eight leaders summit gets underway in Russia Saturday. Mr. Koizumi spoke in Jordan where he is completing a tour of the Middle East. Japan's call for sanctions against North Korea is supported by the United States and several other Council members. But, China and Russia are backing an alternative resolution that does not include such strong action.
BUSH - RUSSIA: President Bush is in St.
Petersburg, Russia, for talks with President Vladimir Putin, ahead of the Group of Eight economic summit. Mr. Bush and his wife Laura went straight to the monument honoring the World War Two defenders of Leningrad, the wartime name for St. Petersburg. The president then went to the residence of the U.S. consul general in the city to meet with Russian human rights activists ahead of an evening dinner with President Putin. Mr. Bush has said he will raise concerns about human rights, press freedom and democracy in Russia during the discussions but will not scold Mr. Putin.
INDIA BLASTS: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Bombay today (Friday) to speak with people recovering from Tuesday's deadly railway bombings. He is also expected to meet with investigators searching for those responsible for the attacks, which killed about 200 people and wounded 700 others. Indian officials say they are searching for a third suspect in the coordinated bombings of commuter trains in and near Bombay (also known as Mumbai). Indian investigators say a terrorist mastermind named Rahil may be behind the attacks. Earlier, police said they are looking for Sayyad Zabiuddin and Zulfeqar Fayyaz. Their nationalities have not been released.
INDONESIA - BIRD FLU: Indonesia says tests
done by a World Health Organization-affiliated laboratory confirm the country's 41st death from bird flu. An Indonesian Health Ministry official announced today (Friday) in Jakarta that the tests showed a three-year-old girl who died July sixth was infected with the H5N1 strain of the virus. The death toll in Indonesia is second only to Vietnam, where 42 have died from bird flu. The girl is believed to have contracted the virus from infected chickens in her home village on the island of Java. Indonesia has been criticized for failing to routinely cull sick birds, seen as the best way to curb the spread of the virus. Bird flu has killed at least 131 people worldwide.
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