ISRAEL - LEBANON: Israeli warplanes continue to pound Hezbollah strongholds across Lebanon and guerrillas have fired rockets into Israel, as the fighting continues for a 10th straight day. Israeli jets today (Friday) struck several areas in southern Lebanon, near Beirut and the eastern Bekaa Valley. Hezbollah fired several rockets, hitting the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Israeli medics say at least 10 people were wounded. Israel is warning civilians living in southern Lebanon to move north of the Litani River, about 30 kilometers from the Israeli border. Israeli media reports say the army is calling up reserve troops - an indication that Israel may be preparing for a ground invasion. Lebanon's Defense Minister Elias al-Murr told the Dubai-based Al Arabiya television the Lebanese army will defend the country's borders if Israel invades.
ISRAEL - LEBANON - DIPLOMACY: U.S. Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice is to discuss the Mideast crisis at a meeting in New York today (Friday) with the United Nations delegation returning from a tour of Israel and Lebanon to assess conditions. The U.S. State Department says Rice plans to travel to the region as early as next week in an effort to ease tensions. On Thursday, Rice met with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who has called for an immediate cease-fire in the fighting between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas. Speaking to the Security Council yesterday, Mr. Annan blamed Hezbollah for abducting two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border attack that sparked the violence. He also condemned Israel's military response, calling it "excessive."
US - LAOS: Laos has rejected a U.S. proposal to expand military contacts with the United States. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Admiral William Fallon, made the proposal today (Thursday) during a visit to the Lao capital, Vientiane. Admiral Fallon said it is not good that U.S. and Lao military forces have not interacted much in the past three decades. But Defense Minister Major General Duangchay Phichit told the admiral that Laos is not ready to take the steps its neighbors have taken, such as allowing U.S. military teams to visit to perform community services. He said he does not want more U.S. troops on Lao soil because of what he called lingering hostility toward the United States. He suggested further diplomacy to find the right time to move forward.
CAMBODIA - TA MOK: A former Khmer Rouge
commander has died in Cambodia, taking with him important testimony for an upcoming tribunal of former leaders of the genocidal regime. Ta Mok died today (Friday) in a Phnom Penh hospital. Reported to be 80 years old, he had been hospitalized for weeks with heart, lung and respiratory problems. He was the last leader of the Khmer Rouge before it broke apart in 1998, and he oversaw the killing of civilians, as well as Khmer Rouge soldiers, when members of the ultra-Maoist group turned against each other.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thai officials say the country's king has approved a government proposal to hold a new general election in October. Thailand's cabinet secretary-general said today (Friday) that a re-run of last April's problematic election will be held October 15th. Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called the April 2nd vote three years ahead of schedule amid mass demonstrations accusing his government of corruption and abuse of power. Mr. Thaksin's ruling party was the top vote-getter, but three opposition parties had boycotted the election. The nation's constitutional court later nullified the vote, calling it unconstitutional.
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