NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The top U.S. nuclear envoy says officials in North Korea have reassured him they want to follow through on promises to start shutting down the country's main nuclear reactor. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill made the remark today in Seoul, after completing an unannounced visit to North Korea. He said North Korean officials indicated they are prepared to promptly disable the Yongbyon nuclear facility.
KOREAS - AID: South Korea says it plans to announce next week the date when it will send promised food aid to North Korea. Seoul has delayed the shipment of 400-thousand tons of rice as a way of pushing Pyongyang to fulfill its nuclear disarmament promises. South Korean Vice Unification Minister Shin Eon-sang made the announcement today in Seoul. South Korea resumed shipments of fertilizer and other emergency aid to the North in late March, but decided to withhold rice aid until Pyongyang began to carry out its February pledge to shut down its main nuclear reactor.
VIETNAM - US: President George Bush is to meet with visiting Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet in Washington today for talks on human rights and other issues. The White House says Mr. Bush will convey his deep concern about recent arrests and detentions of democracy activists in Vietnam. Mr. Triet says he plans to discuss the issue of the toxic herbicide, Agent Orange, a chemical used by U.S. troops in Vietnam during the war. President Triet was questioned by U.S. lawmakers Thursday over claims by human rights groups that his government has increased its repression of dissent.
BURMA - US: The U.S. State Department says Burma's military regime and its policies may pose increasing risks to the region if it fails to make genuine progress toward democracy and national reconciliation. A spokesman for the State Department Thursday said U.S. officials remain concerned about the political and human rights crisis in Burma. He said the United States will continue to call for the release of all political prisoners in Burma, as well as for dialogue between the government and leaders of the democracy movement.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan officials say a NATO airstrike has killed 25 civilians, including three young children, and 20 suspected Taleban militants in southern Helmand province. Provincial officials say the raid took place late Thursday night after Taleban fighters carried out an attack in the area. They say the militants were using civilian houses for cover. A NATO spokesman said the alliance is concerned by reports that civilians were killed in the airstrike.
IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says soldiers detained 18 suspected militants and confiscated weapons during three raids in Baghdad. A statement says U.S. and Iraqi forces launched the raids Thursday against networks behind roadside bomb attacks. Also on Thursday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said American forces face more tough fighting in Iraq as they go into areas they have not been for some time.
NIGERRIA - STRIKE: A nationwide strike in Nigeria is in its third day after overnight talks between government and union officials broke down. The unions are demanding the government repeal a 15-percent increase in gasoline prices. The increase was imposed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo before he left office last month. His successor, Umaru Yar'Adua, has offered to cut the price increase by half.
US ENERGY BILL: The U.S. Senate has approved a comprehensive energy bill that includes a huge increase in fuel economy standards for automobiles. The measure passed late Thursday in the Democratic Party-controlled Senate by a vote of 65-27. Lawmakers agreed to increase the average fuel mileage for all passenger vehicles from 40 kilometers per gallon to 56 kilometers per gallon by 2020. The automotive industry has intensely opposed the new standards. Supporters of the new requirement say it will save at least one million barrels of oil in the U.S each day.
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