Iraq's Shi'ite Muslims are celebrating the execution of two close aides of former dictator Saddam Hussein, but many Sunni Arabs, including politicians, are condemning the hangings. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (currently on a tour of the Middle East) has also expressed concerns about the dignity afforded to the two men. But she says the executions were an Iraqi process. Saddam's half brother, Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti, and the former highest ranking official of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar were hanged before dawn Monday.
US-MIDEAST: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice meets wit
h Saudi Arabia's foreign minister in Riyadh today (Tuesday) as she continues her Middle East tour aimed at rallying support for President Bush's new Iraq strategy. Her meeting with Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal follows talks with Saudi King Abdullah late Monday. Earlier, Rice held a joint news conference in Egypt with that country's foreign minister (Ahmed Aboul Gheit), where she said the entire Middle East stands to lose if the Bush plan for Iraq ends in failure.
BIRD FLU: Japanese officials have confirmed an outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu virus at a poultry farm in southwestern Japan. It is the first time in almost three years that Japan has detected the H5N1 strain, which can be lethal to humans. The virus killed about four-thousand chickens last week at a farm in Kiyotake town in Miyazaki prefecture. Early tests had indicated the chickens were infected with a virus from the H-5 family.
THAILAND-SINGAPORE: Thailand has suspended a civil exchange with Singapore in protest of a meeting between former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and a top official of the city-state. Thailand's post-coup government summoned Singapore's ambassador today (Tuesday) to discuss why the former leader was allowed to meet with Deputy Prime Minister S. Jayakumar. The recent meeting happened during one of many trips Mr. Thaksin has taken in Asia since being removed from power in a coup September 19th.
SOUTH KOREA-TRADE-PROTEST: Thousands of South Korean activists have rallied in the capital, Seoul, to protest the resumption of free trade talks with the United States. An estimated three-thousand farmers, unionists and other activists held a sit-in today (Tuesday) on a street near the hotel where U.S. and South Korean officials were meeting. Riot police blocked the protesters from approaching the heavily-guarded venue.
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