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Gates Visits Baghdad for First-Hand Look at Iraq War Situation


Iraq: The new U.S. Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, is in Baghdad on an unannounced visit to get a first-hand look at the situation there and hold talks with American military commanders.
Mr. Gates arrived in the Iraqi capital today (Wednesday) -- just two days after taking oath of office.
Mr. Gates has stressed that failure in Iraq "would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come."
Hours before his arrival, at least 12 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in two separate suicide car bombings in Baghdad.
And, the U.S. military handed over security responsibility of the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf to Iraqi commanders.

Bush – Military: President Bush says he plans to expand the overall size of U.S. military forces to deal with the long-term fight against terrorism, while also acknowledging that the U.S is not winning the Iraq war.
In a wide-ranging interview with "The Washington Post," Mr. Bush says he has instructed his new Defense Secretary Robert Gates to discuss increasing the size of ground forces in the Army and Marines with senior military commanders. He says the war against global terror "is going to last for a while" and the U.S. is going to need a military able to sustain the fight.
On Iraq, Mr. Bush echoed the assessment of his top military advisor (the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace), saying "We're not winning, we're not losing." Prior to the November U.S. elections, the president stressed "Absolutely, we're winning."

Thailand – Laos: Thailand and Laos have opened a second bridge across the Mekong River that marks the border between the two countries.
The bridge cost 70 million dollars to build over a three year period, and was partially funded by loans from Japan. It connects the northeastern Thai province of Mukdahan with the southern Lao province of Savannakhet.
Thai Prime Minister Surayad Chulanont and his Lao counterpart, Bouasone Bouphavanh, attended today's (Wednesday's) opening ceremony.
Mr. Surayud says the bridge will boost trade and investment ties with Laos by improving transportation across the Mekong.
The bridge is part of a regional effort to connect Burma and Thailand to the Vietnamese port city of Danang, via landlocked Laos.

Thailand Stock Market: Thailand's stock market rebounded strongly today (Wednesday) after the government partially removed new capital controls that sparked a massive sell-off on Tuesday.
Bangkok's main share index closed up 11 percent as investors welcomed the government's decision late Tuesday to lift restrictions on foreign investments in Thai stocks.
The central bank announced the measures Monday in an effort to curb the strength of the Thai baht, which is hurting Thai exporters. But, the move triggered a 15-percent plunge in the stock market Tuesday -- the biggest one-day drop in its history.
Hours later, Finance Minister Pridiyathorn removed the stock market controls but maintained restrictions on foreign purchases of Thai bonds and other assets.

Vietnam - Bird Flu: Vietnam is reporting its first bird flu outbreak in poultry in several months.
The animal health department says the deadly H5N1 virus killed thousands of chickens and ducks earlier this month in two southern provinces in the Mekong Delta.
Officials say the birds were illegally hatched and had not been vaccinated. There have been no human bird flu cases reported in Vietnam for a year.
Many scientists fear the H5N1 virus could mutate into a human form and kill millions worldwide. Bird flu has killed 154 people since 2003. Most of the deaths have come in Asia.

Listen to our World News for details.

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