IRAQ: Iraqi and U.S. forces have detained a top aide to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in an operation in eastern Baghdad today (Friday). Al-Sadr's office said the man arrested is its media director, Sheik Abdul Hadi al-Darraji. A U.S. military statement did not identify the detainee, but described him as a leader of an illegal armed group involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of Iraqi civilians. It also said the man detained today was linked to wanted Shi'ite death squad leader Abu Dura.
ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: Israel has transferred 100 million dollars in frozen Palestinian tax funds to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Israeli officials said the money handed over today (Friday) will go toward Mr. Abbas' security force. Media reports say the funds are also designated for humanitarian efforts. Israel collects the taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. But it suspended money transfers after Hamas was elected to power in the Palestinian territories a year ago.
NORTH KOREA - NUCLEAR: The top U.S. negotiator on North Korea says his three-day meeting with his North Korean counterpart was useful, but he denies a report from Pyongyang that the talks in Berlin resulted in an agreement. Earlier today (Friday), North Korea's official news agency (the Korean Central News Agency)said the talks with U.S. envoy Christopher Hill on Pyongyang's nuclear program had resulted in a "certain agreement," but did not elaborate. Following his arrival in Seoul today, Hill said he was not sure what North Korea was referring to.
CHINA - US - SPACE: The United States, Japan and Australia are voicing concerns to China about reports that Beijing successfully tested a new anti-satellite weapon last week. A U.S. National Security Council spokesman says Washington believes China's development and testing of such weapons is inconsistent with the spirit of cooperation in the field of space. In Japan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhiso Shiozaki says Tokyo is concerned about any act of destroying an artificial satellite with a ballistic missile, and has demanded a full explanation from Beijing. Australia is also seeking an explanation from the Chinese government.
THAILAND-POL: Thailand's former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra,
is in Japan for an eight-day visit that could test relations between Tokyo and Bangkok's post-coup government. Following his arrival at Tokyo's Narita International Airport on Thursday, Mr. Thaksin did not make any mention of possible meetings with Japanese officials. The Associated Press is also quoting Japan's Foreign Ministry as saying that there are no meetings scheduled between Japanese officials and the former Thai leader.
THAILAND - BUS PLUNGE: Officials in Thailand say at least 12 people have been killed and 30 injured when a school bus plunged down a ravine into a river. Authorities say the bus was traveling in northern Thailand's Chiang Mai province when it drove off a mountainside today (Friday). It is not immediately clear how many students were on the bus, or what caused the accident.
INDIA - FESTIVAL: Millions of Hindus are expected to gather in the northern Indian city of Allahabad for a dip in the Ganges River today (Friday) -- considered the most auspicious day in the "Ardh Kumbh Mela" religious festival. Authorities say they expect more than 20 million to bathe in the chilly waters by the end of the day, which marks the half-way point in the six-week-long festival. The day is celebrated as the "Mauni Amavasya" or the new moon, starting a new lunar month, which the faithful observe with silent prayers. The "Ardh Kumbh Mela" festival is held every six years.
CAMBODIA - BLAST: Seven Cambodian de-miners have been killed by at least two anti-tank mines that exploded in Cambodia's northwest (Battambang province), near the border with Thailand. The workers belonged to the Cambodian Mine Action Center, or CMAC, the national agency responsible for de-mining in Cambodia. Since its establishment in 1992, the Center has de-mined more than 100 square kilometers.
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