Annan - Mideast: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is in Iran for talks on the country's nuclear program and the Israeli-Hezbollah ceasefire. During his two-day visit, Mr. Annan is scheduled to meet with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Iran is one of the main backers of Hezbollah in Lebanon. On Friday, Mr. Annan met with officials in Syria -- the other key backer of the militant group. Following talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Mr. Annan said Syria promised to increase patrols along the Lebanese border to prevent the flow of arms to Hezbollah.
Israel - Lebanon: The first Italian troops have arrived in Lebanon to boost the United Nations peacekeeping mission there. The troops are part of the first large contingent to arrive since Israel and Hezbollah agreed to a ceasefire to end fighting in Lebanon. Almost one-thousand Italian troops are expected to be in Lebanon by Sunday. The ceasefire calls for the current U.N. peacekeeping mission in Lebanon to be expanded from two-thousand to 15-thousand troops. Spain and France are also making large contributions to the force.
Iraq: Iraqi officials say insurgents have killed 14 South Asian Muslim pilgrims traveling to the holy Shi'ite city of Karbala. They say most of the dead were Pakistani nationals and all were killed execution style. In other violence, nearly simultaneous explosions in Baghdad (Waziriyah district) killed at least two people and wounded 16 others. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government says it has taken control of the country's Abu Ghraib prison from the U.S. military. Iraqi officials say the facility, the site of an abuse scandal involving U.S. soldiers, is empty of prisoners.
US Missile Defense: North Korea has accused the United Sates of threatening war with its missile defense test. Pyongyang vowed today (Saturday) to strengthen its own self-defense to counter a U.S. attack. The U.S. military said Friday it had shot down a target missile in a test of an anti-missile shield over the Pacific Ocean. The head of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (General Henry Obering) said the test made him more confident that the United States could intercept a missile launched by a rival state. Pyongyang's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland said (in a statement on state radio) the test was "aimed at attacking" North Korea and intercepting its missiles.
UN - Burma: The United States is formally asking the U.N. Security Council to place Burma on its permanent agenda as part of efforts to pressure the country's military dictatorship on human rights issues. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, submitted a formal request Friday arguing that Burma is a threat to international peace and security. He said conditions in Burma, including a refugee crisis and the detention of more than one-thousand political prisoners, have a destabilizing impact on the region.
Thailand - Bombs: Thai police say they have detained four people in connection with a series of bombings in the southern province of Yala that killed at least one person and wounded at least 20 others. Police announced the arrests today (Friday) and said they have intensified their search for other suspects. At least 21 bombs exploded Thursday at or near commercial banks in Yala's provincial capital and nearby districts.
Mexico - Fox: Leftist lawmakers in Mexico have staged a protest in Congress, preventing President Vicente Fox from making his final state-of-the-nation address to Congress. He canceled the speech late Friday after lawmakers who have charged fraud in the presidential election two months ago took control of the chamber minutes before Mr. Fox was scheduled to deliver the address. Some opposition lawmakers stormed the podium, carrying signs calling Mr. Fox a traitor to democracy.