PALESTINIAN UNREST: Palestinian witnesses say Hamas militants have taken over the security headquarters of the rival Fatah faction in the Gaza Strip, following heavy fighting between the two sides. The Preventive Security headquarters had been one of the last Gaza bastions of Fatah after Hamas took control of most of territory. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads Fatah and is in the West Bank, is expected to soon make an announcement about the unity government with Hamas as fighting between the two groups rages in Gaza. Fatah officials provided no details about Mr. Abbas's planned announcement.
LEBANON: Thousands of Lebanese have gathered in Beirut for the funeral of anti-Syrian lawmaker Walid Eido, who was killed in a car bomb blast Wednesday. Saad Hariri, the leader of the majority anti-Syrian bloc in Lebanon's parliament and Druze leader Walid Jumblatt took part in the funeral procession today, joining several other lawmakers and government ministers. Businesses, schools and government offices were closed across Lebanon today as the country observed a day of mourning for Eido. President Bush condemned the assassination as the latest attack against people trying to end Syria's interference in Lebanon.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan and U.S.-led coalition officials say 26 suspected Taleban militants have been killed in two separate battles in Kandahar province. Officials said today that 20 of the militants died Wednesday in a battle with Afghan and coalition forces in Shah Wali Kot district. Eight others were wounded. Officials say six militants were killed in the nearby district of Zhari. The coalition also says its soldiers killed a suspected militant and detained three others in a raid early today in Paktika province. Separately, the Taleban said Wednesday it had captured a foreign soldier (Tuesday) in Helmand province.
NOKOR NUCLEAR: A financial dispute that has held up North Korea's promise to shut down its nuclear reactor could be nearing a breakthrough following reports that the transfer of millions dollars of North Korean funds could begin today. Japan's Kyodo news agency quotes unidentified authorities in Macau as saying that a bank there would begin the transfer of 25 million dollars in previoulsy frozen North Korean funds. Authorities in Macau have not confirmed the report. On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy to the North Korea nuclear talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, said that he expected the financial dispute to be resolved soon.
KOREAS AID: South Korea has announced plans to provide 20 million dollars in emergency aid to North Korea to help ease food shortages there. South Korean Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung said today that the aid was being provided at the request of a United Nations food agency. The aid is separate from South Korea's regular rice aid to the North, which has become a sticking point in high-level talks between the two Koreas. In early June, inter-Korean ministerial talks ended without agreement, in part because Seoul refused to lift its suspension of food aid to the North. South Korea says it will not send food aid to the impoverished North until Pyongyang fulfills its promise to shut down its nuclear program as agreed in February.
JAPAN - CAMBODIA: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen is meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today for talks expected to focus on increasing investment in Cambodia. The Cambodian leader arrived in Tokyo Wednesday, and is scheduled to meet with Japanese Emperor Akihito during his visit. Investment in Cambodia by Japanese companies has remained low compared to other countries' investments there. Japan has been a top aid donor to Cambodia, but accounts for only a small percentage of Cambodia's overall commercial trade.
MALAYSIA - HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is promising severe punishment for human traffickers, after the U.S. blacklisted the country for allegedly not doing enough about the problem. Mr. Abdullah said today the government has drafted a bill on human trafficking that would grant greater powers to the police, immigration and other authorities to pursue and convict people smugglers. The legislation will also better protect victims of human trafficking. Mr. Abdullah noted that trafficking in people is illegal in Malaysia and that his government will do whatever it can to stop the practice.
BIRD FLU: Indonesia's health ministry has confirmed another human fatality from bird flu. If verified by the World Health Organization, it would bring to 80 the number of people who have died from bird flu in Indonesia. Indonesia has the highest number of human bird flu deaths in the world. Meanwhile, in Burma, agriculture officials have detected a new outbreak of bird flu among poultry. Officials say the H5N1 strain of the virus has been confirmed at a poultry farm in Bago, around 80 kilometers north of Rangoon. Around one-thousand birds have been culled to prevent the spread of the virus.
NEPAL - MONARCHY: Legislators in Nepal have given themselves the power to abolish the monarchy if the king is considered to be interfering in politics. Lawmakers passed a constitutional amendment late Wednesday, allowing a two-thirds majority vote in parliament to take down the monarchy. Analysts say parliament strengthened its authority over the monarchy in an effort to prevent King Gyanendra from disrupting the special assembly election planned for November. King Gyanendra was once widely revered in the Himalayan nation, but his popularity plummeted after he seized absolute power in February 2005.
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