Israel – Lebanon: Senior U.N. diplomats are in Israel today (Monday) for talks with Israeli officials on sustaining the week-long ceasefire with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Israeli media say U.N. envoys Terje Roed-Larsen and Vijay Nambiar were to discuss a possible prisoner swap between Israel and Hezbollah.
Hezbollah's capture of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid on northern Israel last month (on July 12th) triggered the month-long conflict.
In another development, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has asked Italy to lead the U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Iraq Saddam Trial: Saddam Hussein has entered his second trial on charges of genocide that stem from a violent campaign against minority Kurds nearly two decades ago. The former Iraqi leader was defiant in the Baghdad courtroom today (Monday), refusing to state his name or enter a plea of innocence or guilt. The chief judge (Abdullah Ali al-Aloosh) entered a plea of not guilty for him.
Egypt Train Crash: Egyptian officials say two passenger trains have collided just north of Cairo, killing at least 51 people and injuring more than 130. It is the country's deadliest train crash in four years.
The collision happened early this (Monday) morning near the town of Qalyoub, in the Nile Delta region. Most of the victims were farmers and government workers commuting to Cairo. Officials say a train heading south toward the capital from the city of Mansoura crashed into the back of another Cairo-bound train on the same track. Police say the driver of the Mansoura train failed to observe a stop signal. The collision sparked a fire on one train and caused several carriages to derail and overturn.
US – Asia – Refugees: Officials from the United States and the United Nations are preparing for a trip to Asia to study refugee programs and policy.
The U.S. State Department says Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration Affairs Ellen R. Sauerbrey will travel to Malaysia, Bangladesh, and Thailand from August 21 through September 2. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres will be traveling jointly with Sauerbrey for the Thailand portion of the trip. The State Department did not list the specifics of Sauerbrey's agenda. Thailand has been dealing with large numbers of refugees from Burma.
Philippines Killings: Philippine president Gloria Arroyo
has appointed an independent commission to investigate the growing number of politically linked killings in her country. President Arroyo named a former Supreme Court justice (Jose Melo) as head of the commission today (Monday). The killings appear to have targeted activists opposed to the government and members of groups linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines. The military denies being behind the violence, and suggests the killings may be part of a communist movement purge.
Human rights groups have been urging the government to end the violence.
Iran Nuclear: Iran's supreme leader says his country will continue to pursue nuclear technology, despite a U.N. demand it stop sensitive nuclear work.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei says Iran has made up its mind to press on with nuclear work. He says the United States is putting pressure on Iran to abandon nuclear research even though it knows Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons.
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