IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has invited former members of the Saddam Hussein-era army to join Iraq's new military. Mr. Maliki made the announcement at the opening of Iraq's national reconciliation conference in Baghdad today (Saturday). He said those who are unable to rejoin the army will be given pensions. Hundreds of delegates from Iraq's rival ethnic and religious factions are meeting to discuss ways to stop the spiraling sectarian violence that is now killing nearly 100 Iraqis each day.
PALESTINIANS-UNREST: Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas say he may call for early elections today (Saturday), as violence between his Fatah party and the ruling Hamas faction has stirred fears of a civil war. Mr. Abbas is expected to give a speech in the West Bank town of Ramallah. A call for early elections would follow a collapse of talks with Hamas on forming a unity government.
BLAIR-MIDEAST: British Prime Minister
Tony Blair is in Turkey, the first stop of a Middle East tour aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Mr. Blair was expected late Friday to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss Middle East issues and Turkey's hope for joining the European Union. The two leaders plan to hold a press conference today (Saturday).
NORTH KOREA: U.S. negotiator Christopher Hill says he plans to meet his North Korean counterpart in Beijing Sunday, a day before the resumption of six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program. Hill made the comment today (Saturday) after arriving in Tokyo to consult with Japanese officials ahead of the six-nation talks, which have been frozen for more than a year.
US-CHINA-ENERGY: Beijing and Washington have reached an agreement for U.S.-based energy company Westinghouse to build four civilian nuclear power plants in China. The multibillion dollar deal was signed today (Saturday) in Beijing by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and senior Chinese planning official Ma Kai.
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