IRAQ: The new U.S. military commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, says the stakes in Iraq are high, but the situation is not hopeless. General Petraeus was officially installed in his new post today (Saturday) in a change-of-command ceremony at a U.S. base (Camp Victory) near Baghdad. He succeeds General George Casey. General Petraeus said (today / Saturday) he thinks prospects for success are good. He warned failure would "doom" Iraq to "continued violence and civil strife." The new four-star general will oversee President Bush's plan to send an additional 21-thousand-500 troops to Iraq to bolster security.
NOKOR TALKS: A third day of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program ended today (Saturday) in Beijing, with no apparent progress on Pyongyang's nuclear disarmament. Earlier today, the chief U.S. envoy, Christopher Hill, said negotiations on a preliminary list of actions aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear programs had come down to a single issue. He would not reveal what the remaining obstacle is.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, travels to Germany today (Saturday) to attend a security conference where he is expected to discuss the international standoff over Iran's nuclear program. The U.N. nuclear agency, the IAEA, suspended nearly half of its 55 technical aid projects to Iran Friday in compliance with U.N. sanctions imposed (in December) on Tehran for refusing to halt its uranium enrichment activities. Meanwhile. German Chancellor Angela Merkel says the international community is determined to prevent the threat posed by an Iranian military nuclear program. Ms. Merkel, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, called for greater transparency from Tehran on its disputed nuclear program, or risk falling deeper into international isolation.
SOKOR - BIRD FLU: South Korea's Agriculture Ministry has confirmed the country's sixth outbreak of bird flu among poultry, despite government efforts to contain the virus. Officials said today (Saturday) that the latest case was found at a farm in Ansong, about 70 kilometers south of Seoul. The outbreak was caused by the H5 virus, but further tests are needed to determine whether it is the H5N1 strain that can be deadly to humans.
INDIA - PAK - DEFENSE: A top Pakistani diplomat says rival India's spending on fighter jets and other modern weaponry could start a regional arms race. Shahid Malik, Pakistan's high commissioner to India, told reporters late Friday he is concerned about India's plan to purchase 126 new fighter jets. India plans to reach agreements on the aircraft purchases this year. Russia, the United States, Sweden and France are competing to sell the jets.
BURMA - REFUGEES: Canada has announced it will accept two thousand Karen refugees from Burma over the next two years. The Karen are a minority ethnic group who fled Burma in 1995 following a major offensive by the Burmese government army against the Karen National Union. Many of them have been living in Thai refugee camps for up to 20 years. The United Nations refugee agency has been working with Canada and other countries to find a permanent place for 140-thousand Karen refugees.
THAILAND POL: A group of 30 lawmakers, including the current leader of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's former ruling Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party, resigned today (Friday). The leader, Suwat Liptapanlop, says the group of politicians decided to leave Thai Rak Thai because of the current political situation, and because Mr. Thaksin says he has stepped out of politics.
INDONESIA - FLOODS: Indonesian authorities have increased to 80 the death toll from the capital's worst flooding in five years. Tens of thousands of people are still unable to return home and are living in cramped shelters after flooding inundated Jakarta and surrounding areas. Waters are slowly receding, but much of Jakarta remains under filthy water.
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