Britain is maintaining pressure on Iran for access to 15 British sailors captured in the northern Persian Gulf on Friday. Britain's Foreign Office said today (Thursday) it is waiting for details on an undertaking by Tehran to allow diplomats to visit the sailors. Britain says it continues to press strongly for the sailors' release. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon discussed the issue with Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki in Riyadh today (, on the sidelines of an Arab summit). Mottaki has said the standoff could be resolved if Britain admits the sailors were in Iranian waters when they were seized. Britain maintains that satellite positioning information shows the sailors were in Iraqi waters.
IRAQ: Iraqi security officials say at least 11 people were killed in a
series of bombings and other attacks in and around Baghdad today. Officials say the head of the country's traffic police (Jaafar al-Khafaji) escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen attacked his convoy in northern Baghdad, killing two of his bodyguards and wounding two others. They say nine people were killed and more than 25 others wounded in separate attacks in a Baghdad market (Bayaa) and in the town of Mahmudiyah, south of the capital.
ARAB SUMMIT: Arab leaders have urged Israel to accept an Arab peace plan, saying the proposal offers the possibility of peace and recognition with all of Israel's neighbors. They made the appeal Wednesday during the opening day of the Arab League summit in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said Israel should accept the Arab proposal first, and then move to negotiations. The Saudi foreign minister (Saud al-Faisal) said another Israeli rejection of the plan would mean Israel does not want peace.
THAILAND-POLITICS: Thailand's military-installed prime minister,
Surayud Chulanont, says he has rejected a request by the country's coup leader to impose a state of emergency in Bangkok. Thai military leader General Sonthi Boonyaratglin urged the prime minister this week to use emergency powers to block small but growing opposition rallies in the Thai captial. Mr. Surayud said today (Thursday) the situation in Bangkok is not serious enough for a state of emergency But, Bangkok police say they will close a city park until Monday to prevent opponents of last September's military coup from holding a rally there Friday.
ASIA-BIRD FLU: Indonesian health officials say local tests show two more people have died of bird flu in recent days. The officials say bird flu killed a 14-year old boy in West Sumatra province on Saturday. A 28-year old woman also died of the virus in the capital, Jakarta, on Wednesday. The fatalities raise Indonesia's death toll from the H5N1 strain of bird flu to 71. The World Health Organization tally differs, confirming 63 bird flu deaths in Indonesia since 2005.
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