NORTH KOREA: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has cast doubt a reported pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il not to carry out further nuclear tests and says Pyongyang appears intent on escalating tensions. Rice spoke to reporters aboard a flight from Beijing to Moscow, where she is scheduled to confer today (Saturday) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. News reports had said North Korea's leader told a visiting Chinese envoy on Thursday that he planned no further nuclear tests. Rice, who met with the Chinese official (Tang Jiaxuan) after his return from Pyongyang, says the envoy did not mention anything about such a pledge or an apology by North Korea for its nuclear test.
BUSH - IRAQ: President Bush is hosting a meeting today (Saturday) at the White House to discuss the situation in Iraq with civilian and military leaders. Mr. Bush, Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior officials will be joined by videoconference with military leaders in Iraq, including General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. The president met Friday with General John Abizaid, who oversees the Iraqi mission.
IRAQ: Iraqi troops have been deployed in the southern city of Amara to protect a fragile truce after two days of clashes involving police and Shi'ite militia fighters. Witnesses say shops and government offices re-opened today (Saturday) while army units manned checkpoints around the city. Clashes erupted Thursday between the Shi'ite factions after police detained a member of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. Security officials say at least 10 policemen and 15 militiamen were killed, and 90 other people wounded in the fighting.
INDONESIA - THAILAND: Thailand's interim prime minister is asking Indonesia's Muslim leaders to help end violence in his country's mostly Muslim south. In a meeting with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta today (Saturday), Surayud Chulanont said he is looking to Indonesia to help resolve Thailand's three-year conflict peacefully. Disagreement between the Thai military and former President Thaksin Shinawatra about how to quell the violence in the mainly Muslim south was one of the factors that led to last month's bloodless coup in Thailand.
UN - BURMA: A U.N. envoy has expressed concern about the situation in Burma. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a special rapporteur on human rights in Burma, addressed the United Nations General Assembly Friday. He said he has not been permitted to conduct a fact-finding mission in Burma in three years. He also said the persecution of opposition members and human rights advocates in Burma is an obstacle to a transition to democracy. The envoy said the stability of the country is not well-served by the detention of political leaders or severe restrictions on fundamental freedoms. In response, a Burmese representative, U Win Mra, told the General Assembly that a report from Mr. Pinheiro on Burma lacks objectivity and contains unfounded allegations. The representative also said Mr. Pinheiro has visited Burma on six occasions, with the government extending the fullest possible cooperation.
VIETNAM - MEDIA: The Vietnamese government has temporarily suspended two newspapers over critical reporting about the introduction of new banknotes. Vietnamese media reports said today (Saturday) the weekly "Thoi Dai" ("Time") and bi-weekly "Cong Ly" ("Justice") newspapers have been suspended for a month for violation of the press law. The government accuses the publications of providing inaccurate information about the central bank's printing of new polymer bank notes. In the past month, state media have repeatedly criticized glitches and inconsistencies in the new notes.
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