Israel – Lebanon: Israel is pounding southern Lebanon with heavy artillery and air strikes today (Thursday), after suffering the worst single-day losses in its fight against Hezbollah guerrillas.
Nine Israeli soldiers were killed and more than 25 wounded on Wednesday in fierce fighting to capture a strategic Hezbollah stronghold (Bint Jbail) near the Israeli border.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's cabinet is expected to decide later today (Thursday) whether to broaden the current offensive. Israeli media report military commanders want more ground troops and air power to defeat Hezbollah, and assurance they will be allowed to continue fighting.
UN – Israel: The U.N. Security Council has failed to agree on a statement condemning the Israeli air strike that killed four peacekeepers in southern Lebanon.
Talks broke off late Wednesday after the United States rejected language suggesting that Israel deliberately attacked the United Nations outpost. Discussions by the 15 Security Council members are expected to resume today (Thursday).
U.S. ambassador John Bolton says the Security Council should call for a full investigation of the incident, but not attach any political statements to its resolution.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said earlier that Israel's fatal air strike was aimed at a U.N. observation post that was clearly marked, and despite repeated appeals to Israeli forces to avoid striking the base.
ASEAN – Mideast: Diplomatic efforts to resolve the Middle East crisis shift to Malaysia today (Thursday).
The U.S. and Iranian foreign ministers are both traveling to Kuala Lumpur for talks with Asian leaders, but not with each other.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is coming to the Malaysian capital from Rome, where an international meeting on Wednesday failed to make progress on a ceasefire between Israel and the militant group Hizbollah.
The Rome conference produced pledges of further humanitarian aid for civilians suffering from the intense fighting in southern Lebanon, but there was no agreement on details of a truce.
ASEAN - Rice protests: Several hundred
protesters denounced the United States and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she arrived in Malaysia for a regional security forum this (Thursday) afternoon.
Demonstrators shouted anti-U.S. slogans and displayed signs demanding that Rice leave Malaysia.
The rally in Kuala Lumpur (the capital) was in a park near the site of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations forum. Those involved were members of Malaysia's fundamentalist Muslim opposition party and several antiwar groups.
NoKor – US – ASEAN: A North Korean official says his government will not resume six-party talks on its nuclear program until the United States lifts financial sanctions against Pyongyang.
The North Korean spokesman (Chong Song il) ruled out the possibility of a six-way meeting on the sidelines of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional security forum in Kuala Lumpur, which began today.
North Korean Foreign Minister Paek Nam-sun is attending the two-day forum, along with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the foreign ministers of more than 20 other countries. But, there are no plans for Paek to meet with Rice during the event.
ASEAN – Mideast: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she is "willing and ready" to return to the Middle East and try for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah.
Speaking to reporters in Malaysia today (Thursday), Rice said she would be "more than happy" to return to the Middle East at any time, if that would help achieve a sustainable ceasefire to end the fighting and bloodshed in Lebanon. Rice is in Kuala Lumpur to attend the annual regional forum of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
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