IRAN NUCLEAR: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says the country will not be deprived of its right to have nuclear technology. He says Iran's nuclear activities are not a threat to anyone. The Iranian leader made the comments today (Saturday) as he inaugurated a new phase of a nuclear facility under construction near Arak, 200 kilometers southwest of Tehran. The heavy water production plant that opened today is part of the nuclear facility scheduled to be completed in 2009.
ISRAEL - LEBANON: European nations have pledged nearly seven-thousand troops for the expanded U.N. peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan Friday praised European officials for providing the "backbone" of the newly expanded U.N. force (known as U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon). He told reporters in Brussels the increased troop level will help build a credible force for peace in the region, but will not be involved in disarming Hezbollah. Mr. Annan said there has to be a national dialogue in Lebanon on whether to disarm Hezbollah, which the United States and European Union classify as a terrorist organization.
AUSTRALIA - EAST TIMOR - US: Australia has welcomed plans by the U.N. Security Council to create a new mission to establish security in East Timor. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer today (Saturday) said his country will contribute 130 police officers to the effort. The Security Council passed a resolution Friday to send more than 16-hundred police and military liaison officers to East Timor for six months. Military troops will not participate in the mission, but the Australian-led peacekeeping force already in the country will remain in place. Australia deployed 15 hundred troops and 200 police officers to East Timor in May after a split in the country's armed forces sparked weeks of street violence. Six hundred peacekeepers from Malaysia, New Zealand, and Portugal are also helping to restore order.
SOKOR - CHINA - NOKOR: The chief security advisor to South Korea's president says Seoul and Beijing have agreed to cooperate to try to prevent North Korea from conducting a nuclear weapons test. Song Min-soon said (late Friday) if North Korea carried out a nuclear test, it would create a situation more grave than its test-firing of missiles last month. He said South Korea and China plan to prevent that from happening. Song, who did not elaborate, returned from a two-day visit to Beijing on Friday. North Korea test-fired seven missiles July fifth, and a recent U.S. media report (on ABC News) said the country may be preparing to test nuclear weapons underground.
VIETNAM - BIRD FLU: Vietnam says the bird flu virus has been found in poultry in the southern Mekong Delta for the second time this month. The Department of Animal Health said today (Saturday) the H5N1 virus was detected in at least one duck in Ben Tre province. Earlier this month, the bird flu virus was detected in ducks and geese in the same province. Forty-two people have died of bird flu in Vietnam, which has the second highest number of human fatalities from the H5N1 strain of the virus after Indonesia.
BURMA - THAILAND - US - KAREN: U.N. and American diplomats begin a four-day visit to Thailand Monday focused on Burmese refugees housed in nine camps along the Burma-Thai border. The U.S. State Department says about 25-hundred of the ethnic Karen refugees housed in one of the camps are scheduled to resettle in the United States before the end of the year. On their visit the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (Antonio Guterres) and the head of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (Ellen Sauerbrey) will visit Tham Hin camp, which houses about nine thousand ethnic Karen.
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