IRAN - BRITAIN: Fifteen British navy personnel have arrived in Britain after nearly two weeks of detention in Iran. The 14 men and one woman arrived today at London's Heathrow Airport aboard a scheduled commercial flight from Tehran. As the plane arrived, British Prime Minister Tony Blair spoke to reporters at his office. Mr. Blair said Britain had managed to secure the release of the 15 sailors and marines without any deal or negotiations.
IRAQ: Four British soldiers and a civilian interpreter have been killed in a roadside bomb blast in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. A British military spokesman said a fifth soldier was wounded in the blast. The spokesman said insurgents also opened small arms fire on the British patrol. Separately, the U.S. military says it is checking reports of an American helicopter crash south of Baghdad.
INDONESIA - PLAYBOY: An Indonesian court has ruled that the editor-in-chief of the Indonesian version of Playboy magazine did not violate the country's indecency laws. The presiding judge at the South Jakarta district court dismissed the case today against Erwin Arnada, saying the prosecution's arguments could not be accepted. Arnada faced 32 months in jail if convicted.
SOUTH PACIFIC QUAKE: Aid workers in the Solomon Islands say survivors of this week's tsunami face growing health risks as a lack of resources hampers relief efforts. At least 34 people were killed when a magnitude eight-point-zero earthquake sent giant waves crashing into the isolated western region of the South Pacific archipelago on Monday.
EAST TIMOR: The U.N. Security Council is urging all parties in East Timor to ensure that next week's presidential elections are free, fair and peaceful. In a statement issued Wednesday, council members expressed full support for the elections, calling them a "significant milestone" in the country's democratic process. The U.N. Secretary General's Special Representative in East Timor, Atul Khare, says he is confident the upcoming elections will be peaceful.
SOUTH KOREA - US - TRADE: A U.S. trade official says Washington will not sign a free trade agreement with South Korea until the country lifts all barriers to American beef imports. The U.S. Trade Representative spokesman said Wednesday Washington wants to see a "clear path" toward resolving the beef dispute before sending the trade deal to Congress.
SOUTH KOREA - AID: South Korea says it will ship rice aid to North Korea even if the impoverished state misses an upcoming deadline to shut down its nuclear reactor. South Korean Vice Unification Minister Shin Eon-sang said today that delays in implementing a February 13th six-nation nuclear agreement will not affect the decision to send rice to the North.
THAILAND - UNREST: Thai police say insurgents have thrown a bomb into a mosque in the south of the country during morning prayers, wounding 14 worshippers. Police say about 100 people were in the mosque in Yala province when it was attacked before dawn this morning. The mosque is located in Yaha district, which has been under military curfew since gunmen there killed eight Buddhists on a minibus last month.
WORLD BANK - ASIA: The World Bank is warning that widening income gaps in Asian nations could threaten the region's growth and stability. A World Bank economist said today that Asia's recovery since the 1997 economic crisis has been impressive. He said the region's economic output has doubled since 1997 to more than five trillion dollars -- or 10 percent of the world's gross domestic product.
VIETNAM - POL: The U.S. ambassador to Vietnam is calling on Vietnam to open up its single-party political system and release dissidents from jail. In an editorial sent to news organizations in Vietnam, Ambassador Michael Marine said there are an increasing number of people in prison or under detention whose only crime was the peaceful expression of their views.
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