A powerful earthquake has shaken northwestern Laos, near the border with Thailand. There were no initial reports of damage or casualties. The U.S. Geological Survey said today's (Wednesday's) six-point-one magnitude earthquake was centered 340 kilometers northwest of the Lao capital, Vientiane. The quake caused high-rise buildings in Bangkok to sway, and some offices were evacuated. The quake was also felt in northern Thailand's city of Chiang Mai, a popular tourist destination.
PALESTINIANS-VIOLENCE: Palestinian security officials say at least 14 people have been killed in continuing clashes between Hamas and Fatah factions across the Gaza Strip in widening factional fighting that threatens to bring down the fragile unity government. The officials say five Fatah guards were killed when Hamas gunmen stormed the home of a top Fatah official in Gaza City early today (Wednesday). Two Fatah members and five Hamas detainees they were escorting were killed when gunmen fired on their vehicle near a detention center.
FRANCE-POL: Nicolas Sarkozy has been officially inaugurated as French President. Outgoing French President Jacques Chirac presented his successor with the codes for France's nuclear arsenal as artillery salutes echoed outside Elysee Palace. Mr. Sarkozy is to go to the Arc de Triomphe to rekindle the flame on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier before taking a brief trip to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Mr. Sarkozy will return to France and appoint his Cabinet Thursday or Friday.
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has called on the international community to help Africa speed up its economic development, as he opened the annual African Development Bank meeting today (Wednesday) in Shanghai. Mr. Wen called on the world community to deliver on aid pledges to Africa, reduce and cancel African debt and enhance trade. He said that China has canceled almost one and a half billion dollars of African debt.
SOMALIA-VIOLENCE: The African Union says four A.U. peacekeepers were killed in Somalia today (Wednesday) when a roadside bomb exploded as their convoy was traveling through the capital, Mogadishu. An A.U. spokesman says the dead soldiers were Ugandan. Five other soldiers were wounded in the attack. Uganda has sent about 15-hundred peacekeepers into Somalia as part of an eight-thousand strong force pledged by the A.U. The mission is aimed at helping the interim government establish its authority after it expelled Islamist forces earlier this year, with the help of Ethiopian troops. But Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said on Tuesday that he wants to pull all of his country's troops out of Somalia.
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