BUSH-IRAQ: President Bush is planning to name new U.S. military commanders for Iraq and the Middle East, as he prepares to announce his new Iraq strategy next week. Administration officials are quoted as saying the president will name U.S. Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus to replace General George Casey as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. He is also set to choose Navy Admiral William Fallon to succeed Army General John Abizaid as head of the U.S. Central Command. General Petraeus led the early effort to train Iraqi security forces. Admiral Fallon is the top U.S. military commander in the Pacific Ocean.
US-CONGRESS: Democratic lawmakers called on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq as they took control of both houses of the U.S. Congress on Thursday. New House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California says American voters rejected an open-ended engagement in Iraq in last November's congressional elections. She said Mr. Bush must make it clear to the Iraqis that "they must defend their own streets and their own security."
IRAQ: The U.S. military says Iraqi Special Forces have captured four men who are suspected of being the leaders of a terror cell that kidnapped and killed Iraqi civilians. A military statement issued today (Friday) says the Iraqi forces captured the men on Wednesday in the mainly Shi'ite Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad.
SOMALIA: A message attributed to Al Qaida's number two leader is calling on Islamist forces in Somalia to launch a guerrilla campaign against Ethiopian forces deployed in the eastern African nation. The audiotape message appeared today (Friday) on an Internet site that Islamic militant groups frequently use. It purportedly is by Ayman al-Zawahri and it urges the Somali militants to employ guerrilla tactics used in Iraq and Afghanistan to drive the Ethiopian troops out of Somalia. The message refers to Somalia as sacred Muslim land.
PHILIPPINES-ASEAN: The Philippines government says everything is ready - again - for the annual ASEAN summit next week. The meeting is scheduled from January 10th to 15th in Cebu. It was postponed in December, when a typhoon threatened to strike the summit city. There was also an apparent terrorist threat. Shortly before the meeting, several Western embassies warned that Islamic militants might be in the final stages of planning attacks in the Philippines. However, Manila denied that security was the reason for the postponement.
CHINA-AUSTRALIA-TRADE: China and Australia have ratified a pair of agreements that allow China to buy Australian uranium. Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said today (Friday) that the two countries gave final approval to the agreements Thursday in Beijing. They go into force in 30 days. The treaties - the Australia-China Nuclear Transfer Agreement and the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement - were signed in April during Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to Canberra.
FIJI: The leader of Fiji's military coup has been sworn in as the country's interim prime minister, one day after restoring power to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Coup leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama pledged to be a true and faithful prime minister. He took the office one month after overthrowing the government of former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, accusing it of corruption.
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