PAKISTAN MOSQUE: The chief cleric of a besieged radical mosque in Pakistan's capital is urging nearly one thousand followers still inside the mosque to surrender. Abdul Aziz spoke today on state-run television. He started the interview wearing a woman's burka like the one he wore when he was captured trying to flee the mosque Wednesday. Aziz said after leaving the mosque he saw how massive the siege is and believes the students should give up. Earlier today, Pakistani security forces triggered "warning blasts" and knocked out a wall of the compound of the Lal Masjid, or Red Mosque, in Islamabad.
AL-QAIDA - VIDEO: Al-Qaida's number two leader has issued a new video urging Muslims to unite in jihad, or holy war, and to support the Islamist movement in Iraq. Ayman al-Zawahiri appeared Wednesday in the Internet video speaking in Arabic and wearing white. A U.S.-based group that monitors Islamist Web sites issued a transcript of his speech. The transcript quotes Zawahiri lashing out at Egypt and Saudi Arabia for supporting the United States in the Middle East. He also said al-Qaida's future plans include using camps in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia for jihadi training. He did not refer to the attempted car bombing attacks last week in London and Glasgow, Scotland.
AUSTRALIA - IRAQ - OIL: Australia has said for the first time that securing oil supplies has been a key factor behind its involvement in the U.S.-led war in Iraq. Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said today that maintaining what he calls "resource security" in the Middle East is a priority for Australia, which still has about 15-hundred troops in the region. His comments follow the government's review of its national security policy. Nelson added that although energy concerns are important, the main reason Australian troops are still in the Gulf is to ensure the humanitarian crisis in the region does not get worse. The main opposition Labor party says that, in 2003, Prime Minister John Howard insisted the war had nothing to do with oil.
EAST TIMOR: Nearly-complete election results in East Timor show the ruling Fretilin party has won the highest number of votes in parliamentary polls, but not enough for an outright majority. Election officials say the Fretilin party won 29 percent of the vote. Former president Xanana Gusmao's new party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor, or CNRT, followed with around 24 percent. The head of the Fretlin party says he is holding talks with other parties on forming a coalition government, but says he unwilling to discuss a coalition with the CNRT.
JAPAN DEFENSE MINISTER: Japan's first female defense minister pledged to strengthen ties with the United States after taking office today. Yuriko Koike also says she wants to improve working conditions for women in the Japanese military. Koike -- a former national security advisor -- was rushed in to fill the post of defense minister after Fumio Kyuma was forced to resign on Tuesday. Kyuma stepped down following controversial remarks about the U.S. bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima during World War Two.
RUSSIA OLYMPICS: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has awarded the 2014 Winter Olympics to the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi. On Wednesday, Sochi's bid won a vote among IOC members meeting in Guatemala City, Guatemala. The first round of voting eliminated the Austrian city of Salzburg. Sochi then beat Pyeongchang, South Korea to win the final round, 51 to 47. Pyeongchang had led after the first round with 36 votes, to Sochi's 34, and Salzburg's 25. The loss disappointed many people in South Korea, which also narrowly lost to Vancouver, Canada for the rights to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.
RUSSIA - SPY POISONING: Russian media say Moscow has officially refused Britain's request to extradite a businessman accused in last year's fatal poisoning of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko. Interfax News Agency today quotes what it calls an informed source as saying the Russian prosecutor general's office has sent British authorities a letter saying it will not extradite Andrei Lugovoi. The source says the letter refers to the Russian constitution's ban on the extradition of Russian citizens. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the same argument.
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