IRAN NUCLEAR: News reports from Iran say nuclear engineers have begun operating a second network of centrifuges at a uranium enrichment facility, despite threats of U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program. Iran's student news agency ISNA today (Friday) quoted sources as saying gas had been fed into a second system of cascades this week and that the results of the process had already been obtained. The report also said uranium had not yet been put into the system, but could be in the next few days. On Wednesday, Tehran confirmed it had installed new equipment to step up uranium enrichment work.
AFGHANISTAN: Officials in Afghanistan say at least 14 people have been killed in a bomb blast in the southern province of Uruzgan. A provincial government spokesman said the blast occurred today (Friday) on a road leading to Uruzgan's capital, Tirin Kot. It was not immediately clear who may have been behind the blast. Taleban insurgent have been blamed for most roadside bombings and suicide attack in Afghanistan.
VIETNAM - WTO: Vietnam has completed final negotiations to join the World Trade Organization. The Geneva-based W.T.O. said today (Thursday) its general council is expected to formally approve Vietnam's membership next month. The communist country can then become the 150th member of the world trade body 30 days after Hanoi signs the agreement. Vietnam cleared a major hurdle to W.T.O. membership in May, when it signed a bilateral trade deal with the United States.
CHINA - ICBC: China's largest lender, the Industrial and Commercial Bank, has launched the world's biggest initial public offering on the Hong Kong and Shanghai stock markets. I.C.B.C. shares soared during their debut today (Friday), as buyers lined up to purchase a piece of China's biggest state-run bank. I.C.B.C.'s 21-point-nine billion dollar stock sale surpassed the previous record held by Japan's mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo, which raised 18-point-four billion in 1998.
LAO IMMIGRANTS WON LOTTERY: A Lao immigrant couple wond the State of Washington's $55 million Mego Millions jackpot last week. In a news conference on Monday, Sommay and Xia Rattanakone said they have been buying lottery tickets every week for many years now. The couple live in North Bend, a suburb of Seattle. Somamy, 52, works as an aide in the Seattle Public Schools System. His wife Xia, 44, is temporarily employed at Nintendo of America. The couple said they will retire, buy a new house and a car, and will go back to visit their homeland. Xia, who came to the United States in 1979 after being adopted by an American family, was raised in a Catholic orphanage in Laos. She said she will go back to search for her birth family and donate some money to the orphanage.The couple has two children.
NORTH KOREA: South Korea's foreign minister is in Beijing for talks with Chinese leaders on how to impose sanctions against North Korea for its recent nuclear test. Ban Ki-moon arrived in the Chinese capital today (Friday). He is to meet President Hu Jintao and State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan, who met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il last week.
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