IRAQ: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has warned that the mounting terrorism and sectarian violence plaguing Iraq could spread across the Middle East. Mr. Maliki made his remarks today (Saturday) in his opening statement at a landmark regional security conference in Baghdad.
IRAQ / HOSTAGES: A militant group in Iraq has threatened to kill a captive German woman and her son unless Germany withdraws its troops from Afghanistan within 10 days. Media reports today (Saturday) said a group calling itself "Arrows of Righteousness" posted a video on the Internet showing a middle-aged woman and a young man seated on the floor, and being held at gunpoint by a masked militant.
BUSH / LATAM: President Bush is in Uruguay for the second stop on his five-nation tour of Latin America, as thousands of Uruguayans gathered to protest his arrival. Mr. Bush is to meet with his Uruguayan counterpart, Tabare Vazquez, in the town of Colonia today (Saturday). Mr. Vazquez has said he wants to secure better access to U.S. markets for Uruguayan goods. But he has said he does not endorse U.S. actions on the world stage. Meanwhile, Uruguayan protesters chanted and burned effigies of President Bush in the streets of the capital, Montevideo. Labor leaders read speeches denouncing Mr. Bush, the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and what they called U.S. "imperialism."
IRAN NUCLEAR: China and Russia have expressed deep concern over Western proposals to impose tough financial sanctions against Iran for its nuclear program. China's United Nations ambassador (Wang Guangya) says China's main concern is that the proposed U.N. penalties would end up hurting the Iranian people. He says Russia is mostly concerned that the proposed sanctions target the Iranian Revolutionary guards, and says Russia feels that it is wrong to punish an institution.
NORKOR / NUCLEAR: North Korea's top nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye Kwan, says if the United States fails to lift financial sanctions against Pyongyang, his country will have to respond with "corresponding actions." Kim said that North Korea is carefully watching to see if the United States fulfills its pledge to look into easing financial restrictions on Banco Delta Asia. Washington accuses the Macau-based bank of abetting North Korean counterfeiting and money-laundering.
EAST TIMOR: East Timorese election officials say all eight candidates, including Prime Minister Jose Ramos-Horta, have been approved to contest East Timor's presidential race in April. Also running for the office is veteran politician Francisco Xavier do Amaral, who lost to President Xanana Gusmao in the 2002 election. Mr. Gusmao is long regarded as a uniting force for East Timor, but is stepping down after the April ninth poll that will choose the nation's second president since it broke away from Indonesia in 1999.
THAILAND / TERROR THREATS: Thailand's military-installed Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont assured foreign tourists today (Friday) that his country is safe to visit despite a recent warning of possible terrorist attacks from the Australian government. Mr. Surayud said that while every country has the right to warn its citizens, he assured visiting tourists that Thailand was safe as long as they did not travel to risky areas.
BURMA / US / RIGHTS: Burma is rejecting a U.S. human rights report that condemns the military-run country's rights record. The official "New Light of Myanmar" quoted Burma's Foreign Ministry today (Saturday) as saying that the report carries a number of unfounded and unsubstantiated allegations of human rights violations that are aimed at smearing the country's image. On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2006. In it, Washington categorized Burma, as well as countries including North Korea, China and Russia, as some of the world's worst human rights offenders.