ISRAEL - LEBANON DIPLOMACY: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice returns to the Middle East today (Saturday) to seek support for a U.N. resolution to end the 18-day-old conflict between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. Rice, who left for Jerusalem from Malaysia, is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other members of his cabinet . She will also hold talks with Lebanese officials during her visit to the region. President Bush announced her trip during a joint news conference at the White House Friday with visiting British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
ISRAEL - LEBANON: Israel has rejected U.N. calls for a 72-hour truce in the conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. The rejection today (Saturday) follows an appeal Friday by a top U.N. official (Under-Secretary for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland) for a three-day truce to allow women, children and the elderly to escape the fighting, and to allow emergency supplies to reach the conflict zone. A government spokesman said Israel has already opened safe corridors across Lebanon for such shipments, and that Hezbollah guerrillas were blocking them to create a humanitarian crisis. A U.S. boat carrying the first American aid delivered to Lebanon by sea arrived in Beirut today with supplies for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by Israel's bombardment.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council have agreed to consider a resolution demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment by August 31st or face the possibility of sanctions. The draft resolution calls on Tehran to comply with International Atomic Energy Agency directives to Iran to suspend all uranium-enrichment activities, including research and development. Moscow's U.N ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, stressed the draft did not threaten sanctions but rather a mechanism to discuss further measures if Iran does not comply. But U.S. ambassador John Bolton said the text imposes a binding requirement for Iran to comply with I.A.E.A. directives, and stressed the eventual threat of sanctions if Tehran does not.
JAPAN - IRAQ: Japan has welcomed home soldiers from the war in Iraq, marking the end of the country's first deployment of troops to a combat zone since World War Two. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi expressed relief today (Saturday) that members of the Ground Self Defense Force carried out their two-and-a-half-year humanitarian mission without suffering any combat-related casualties. The Japanese troops helped build schools and roads in the southern Samawah area, and provided clean water. They were dependent on Dutch, Australian and British forces for security.
INDONESIA BLAST: Indonesian officials say an explosion at an oil well in eastern Java province has injured at least 150 people. A local police chief (Rumhadi) said several people have been treated for respiratory problems following the blast in the early morning hours today (Saturday) at the state-owned (Pertamina-PetroChina) oil refinery. He said no one died in the explosion. Thousands of people have been evacuated from the area around the refinery in Bojonegoro district.
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