IRAQ: Iraq's Interior Ministry says the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been wounded and his top aide killed in a clash with government troops. An Interior Ministry spokesman said today (Friday) Iraqi police got into a firefight with insurgents near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad. He did not provide further details. There was no immediate confirmation of the incident from the U.S. military in Iraq.
US - IRAQ: The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to approve a non-binding resolution today (Friday) opposing President Bush's plan to deploy more than 20-thousand additonal troops to Iraq. The vote ends three days of debates on the resolution, with the arguments falling mainly along partisan lines.
PALESTINIAN POL: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, from the rival Hamas group, to form a unity government. The formal request came at a ceremony late Thursday in the Gaza Strip where earlier, Mr. Haniyeh announced the resignation of his current Hamas-led government. The moves clear the way for a unity government between Mr. Abbas's moderate Fatah faction and the Islamic militant group Hamas. The factions agreed last week to form the government in an attempt to end growing tension between them.
JAPAN - IRAN SANCTIONS: Japan's Cabinet has approved sanctions against Iran under U.N. Security Council guidelines aimed at blocking the Islamic Republic's nuclear development program. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said today (Friday) the measures include a ban on supplying Iran with materials, funds and technology that could enhance its nuclear activity. He said Japan will ban the transfer of funds to 10 companies and 12 individuals believed to be involved in Iran's nuclear program.
JAPAN - CHINA: China's foreign minister says he hopes that relations between his country and Japan can develop into friendly ties. Speaking to a Japan-China friendship group in Tokyo today (Friday), Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said that now is an important time for the two sides to improve relations. Li arrived in Tokyo on Thursday for a visit intended to smooth the way for a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in April, the first by a Chinese leader since 2000. Li is to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today.
NOKOR - REFUGEES: A South Korean government official says more than 10-thousand refugees have fled North Korea for the South since the end of the 1950s war that divided the Korean peninsula He says 10 new arrivals in Seoul today (Friday) put the exact total at 10-thousand-six. Earlier this month, the government announced a new grants policy rewarding refugees who find jobs, but reducing payments to new arrivals.
US - WEATHER: A massive winter storm has left behind snow, ice and frigid temperatures across the midwestern and northeastern United States. The storm, which began early in the week, is blamed for at least 14 deaths in several states. It dumped more than 100 centimeters of snow on parts of New York state. The snow and ice combination hit power lines hard, causing thousands of people to be without electricity. The storm also caused numerous school closings and forced airlines to cancel and delay flights at Washington and New York airports.
THAILAND - SINGAPORE: Thailand's coup leader is vowing to take back control of Thai satellites operated by a company sold to Singapore in a controversial deal last year. General Sonthi Boonyaratglin said today (Friday) that Shin Corporation's satellites were "treasures" that he would retrieve. Earlier he had said Singapore might use the satellites to spy on Thailand.
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