IRAN-NUCLEAR: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has again vowed to pursue nuclear technology -- a day after the U.N. nuclear agency reported that Iran has failed to stop enriching uranium as demanded by the Security Council. Speaking at a gathering in northern Iran today (Friday), Mr. Ahmadinejad said Iran "should not show weakness" over the nuclear standoff. Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported to the Security Council that Iran has expanded its uranium enrichment activity. The report clears the way for possible further U.N. sanctions against Iran.
IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says it is investigating claims of civilian deaths during Thursday's fierce gunbattle between coalition forces and insurgents in the city of Ramadi -- an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad. A military spokesman (Lt. Col. Christopher Garver) told reporters in Baghdad today (Friday) U.S. Marines did not think there were civilian casualties, but there was a claim and the military is looking into it.
US-IRAQ-KILLINGS: A U.S. Army soldier has been sentenced to 100 years in prison in connection with the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, and the killing of her family. Sergeant Paul Cortez was sentenced by a military judge Thursday at Fort Campbell, Kentucky (in the southern U.S.). The sentence was part of a plea bargain in which Cortez pleaded guilty to four criminal charges, including felony murder and rape.
ASIA-US-CHENEY: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney says China's recent anti-satellite test and continued rapid military build-up are "not consistent" with Beijing's stated aim of a peaceful rise as a global power. Cheney made the remark in a speech today (Friday) in the Australian city of Sydney. The vice president praised China for its role in six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program. Cheney also questioned whether North Korea will follow through on its commitments in the February 13th nuclear deal.
AUSTRALIA-THAILAND: The Australian Embassy in Thailand is warning its citizens to be on alert today (Friday) for possible bomb attacks in crowded places in Bangkok. The warning on the "Travel Advice" section of the embassy Web site advises Australians to "exercise a high degree of caution because of the high threat of terrorist attack." The embassy says "Reports indicate possible bombing attacks (today) at crowded places such as department stores, and sky-train and subway stations in Bangkok." Britain also warns its citizens in Thailand to be on alert.
BURMA-PROTEST: Burmese authorities have released three local journalists who were detained earlier Thursday during a rare protest in the capital, Rangoon. The three, all Burmese nationals, were freed after being questioned by police for several hours. Two of the journalists are employed by the Japanese news media and the third one works for the local media. The leader of the small, peaceful protest is still in police custody. Eyewitnesses said the protesters, who marched up and down a busy downtown street, carried placards and called for lower consumer prices, 24-hour electricity and better living conditions.
PHILIPPINES-KILLINGS: The human rights group Amnesty International is urging the Philippine government to stop a wave of political assassinations that two new reports blame on elements of the military. The group (Natalie Hill, Amnesty International's deputy Asia Pacific director) says the government can no longer ignore the compelling evidence of a pattern of political killings in the Philippines. On Wednesday, a U.N. envoy, Philip Alston, who conducted a recent investigation said the Philippine military was in almost total denial about the situation.
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