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Asian Nations Applaud Ban Ki-Moon as Next Secretary-General


UN-BAN KI-MOON: Asian nations are applauding the U.N. General Assembly's decision to approve South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon as the world body's next secretary-general. South Korean's presidential office said today (Saturday) that Ban's approval on Friday was a source of national pride, and expressed hope that the veteran diplomat would help resolve the North Korean nuclear standoff. Japan welcomed the move while China said it was a common aspiration of Asian nations for an Asian diplomat to serve as secretary-general. The 62-year-old Ban will become the first South Korean to take the coveted post -- and only the second Asian secretary-general (after U Thant of Burma, who served from 1961 to 1971).

KOREA-NUCLEAR TEST: The United States has told its Asian allies that traces of radiation have been detected that may confirm North Korea's claimed nuclear test last Monday. Speaking on the condition on anonymity, U.S. officials said preliminary analysis shows radioactivity in air samples collected near the suspected North Korean nuclear test site. But they stressed no final determination had been made. Japanese officials said today (Saturday) their latest survey of radiation levels showed no unusual results.

ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: Palestinian security officials say Israeli forces have killed six Palestinian gunmen and wounded at least 10 others wounded in clashes in the northern Gaza Strip. Security officials say the gunmen fired anti-tank missiles at a column of Israeli tanks moving into an area east of the town of Jabalya early today (Saturday). Authorities say Israeli aircraft returned fire. Palestinian officials say at least three of the gunmen killed were members of the Islamic militant group Hamas.

BURMA - DRUGS: The U.N.'s drug agency says opium poppy cultivation in Burma has plunged this year, with production falling 34-percent since 2005. The agency said that opium cultivation in Burma fell to just over 21-thousand hectares in 2006. But officials are warning that the international community must still provide assistance to eradicate opium cultivation from the region. The Associated Press quoted U.N. and Burmese figures saying that opium poppy cultivation in the notorious "Golden Triangle" --- where Thailand, Laos and Burma's border meet --- has dropped 85 percent since 1998.

US-SUDAN-DARFUR: President Bush has approved stiffer sanctions against Sudan to try to persuade it to stop the violence in Darfur. Mr. Bush signed an executive order Friday that freezes the assets of those deemed complicit in the atrocities in Darfur and blocks their entry into the United States. The president said in the order that Sudan continues to implement policies that violate human rights. The action expands on earlier sanctions issued by President Clinton in 1997.

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