IRAQ: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected the idea of holding talks with Iran and Syria on reducing violence in Iraq. Rice told the "Washington Post" newspaper she opposed the bipartisan Iraq Study Group's recommendation to engage the two countries, explaining that the compensation required for any deal with them might be too high. Rice said that if the two countries have an interest in stabilizing Iraq "they will do it anyway."
PALESTINIANS-UNREST: Palestinian witnesses say Hamas and Fatah gunmen have exchanged fire in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a day after an attack against the Palestinian prime minister's entourage in Gaza. There have been no reports of injuries in the violence, which follows accusations from the Hamas faction that gunmen affiliated with its rival Fatah party tried to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.
CHINA-US-TRADE: U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the United States and China have agreed to work towards narrowing the two nations' trade imbalance. Paulson and Chinese Vice Premier Wu Yi wrapped up two days of of high-level economic talks in Beijing today (Friday). At a press conference, Paulson said that the two sides agreed to take measures to address global imbalances through greater national savings in the United States, and to increase consumption and exchange rate flexibility in China.
JAPAN-DEFENSE MINISTRY: Japan's parliament has passed legislation to upgrade the country's defense agency into a full ministry. The measure approved today (Friday) by Japan's upper house will transform the defense agency from an affiliate of the Cabinet Office to a policy-making ministry with a budget. The legislation would also make overseas peacekeeping activities a regular part of the defense forces' activities along with defense and disaster relief at home.
MALAYSIA-THAILAND: Malaysia's national Bernama news agency says 20 Thai Muslims have illegally crossed the border into Malaysia, claiming they faced persecution by Thailand's military. Bernama said the group came from Thailand's Narathiwat province, one of three mainly Muslim southern provinces bordering Malaysia. The group consists of men, women and children as young as two years old.
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