IRAN-NUCLEAR: The United States says six world powers have made progress on a new U.N. sanctions resolution aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program and could begin drafting the text next week. Representatives of Germany and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China -- discussed the resolution in a conference call Thursday. A U.S. State Department spokeswoman (Joanne Moore) said the representatives agreed to confer again by phone on Saturday.
IRAQ: A Sunni group in Iraq linked to al-Qaida says it has kidnapped 18 Interior Ministry employees. An Internet statement said to be posted by the group says the men were seized in Diyala province to avenge the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by policemen last month. The Web site shows pictures of the 18 men - some in uniforms and some in civilian clothes. Iraqi officials said today (Friday) 14 policemen have been missing in Diyala, north of Baghdad, since Thursday. Officials are investigating whether the missing officers may be among the men the Sunni group says it kidnapped.
PAKISTAN-TALEBAN ARREST: Pakistani authorities say security forces have captured a high-ranking Taleban leader in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province. Intelligence officials say Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a former Taleban defense minister and a close associate of fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Omar, was arrested during a raid on a home earlier this week. The Pakistani government has not confirmed the arrest.
KOREAS TALKS: North and South Korea have agreed to resume reunions of families separated by their border for more than 50 years. South Korean reports say the agreement was reached today (Friday) during the third day of high-level talks between the two countries in Pyongyang. The reports say reunions via video links will begin later this month, with face-to-face meetings set for early May. They say the two Koreas also agreed to immediately resume construction of a reunion center at the North's tourist resort of Mount Kumgang.
THAILAND VIOLENCE: Thai officials say security forces have killed five suspected Muslim insurgents during a gunbattle in the country's restive south. The officials say the two sides clashed today (Friday) during an army raid in Narathiwat province. A resurgence of fighting in Thailand's largely Muslim south has killed about two thousand people during the past three years.
ASIA-BIRD FLU: Health officials in Vietnam say bird flu has been detected in ducks in the country's south, one day after authorities there lifted a ban on hatching ducks and other waterfowl. Authorities say tests showed 800 ducks in the Mekong delta province of Vinh Long were infected with bird flu, but it is not immediately clear if they had the H5N1 strain of the virus. All the birds have been slaughtered. Earlier this week authorities announced am outbreak of bird flu in the country's north.
US NARCOTICS REPORT-BURMA: The U.S. State Department says that although Burma continues to cut opium poppy cultivation, the production and trafficking of synthetic drugs has significantly increased in 2006. In its annual International Narcotics Control Strategy Report on global drug trends and money laundering Thursday, the State Department said Burma remains the second largest opium poppy grower in the world. But the report says Burma's share of world opium poppy cultivation has fallen dramatically -- from 63 percent in 1998 to 11 percent last year, mostly due to a sharp increase in cultivation in Afghanistan.
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