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Taleban Claim to Have Killed 2 German Hostages

AFGHANISTAN: Taleban militants in Afghanistan say they have shot and killed two German hostages after a deadline passed for the German and Afghan governments to meet the militants' demands. A Taleban spokesman made the claim today, three days after the two German engineers were abducted in central Afghanistan. The hostages were reported to have been killed about an hour apart. Germany's foreign ministry says it has received no independent confirmation of the killings. The Taleban said it would kill the hostages if Germany did not agree to withdraw its three-thousand troops from Afghanistan.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: North Korea's nuclear negotiator says Pyongyang should be provided with light-water reactors to generate power in exchange for disabling its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. Kim Kye Kwan spoke to reporters today at Beijing's airport after the latest round of six-party talks on dismantling its nuclear weapons program. No deadline to disable Pyongyang's nuclear facilities was agreed upon during the three days of talks, which ended Friday. China's main nuclear envoy, Wu Dawei, said North Korea did reiterate its commitment to declare all of its nuclear programs and disable all of its existing nuclear facilities.

PAKISTAN - JUSTICE: Pakistan's chief justice has returned to work after being reinstated by the Supreme Court, four months after he was suspended by President Pervez Musharraf. Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry began his first day back at work today after the Supreme Court Friday reversed General Musharraf's March ninth suspension order, ruling that it was illegal. The president's office issued a statement saying General Musharraf would respect the court's decision. The court also dismissed allegations of misconduct and abuse of power against Chaudhry by a 10-to-three vote.

IRAQ: Iraqi police say insurgents bombed a minibus today in a Shi'ite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing five people. Authorities say another 11 people were wounded when the bomb went off in the bus in the capital's Baladiyat neighborhood. Elsewhere, the U.S. military says coalition forces detained 14 suspected terrorists during operations today in central and western Iraq. Military officials say the raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq networks took place around Taji, Fallujah and Balad. U.S. military commanders in Iraq said Friday more time will be needed for coalition troops to stabilize Iraq and train Iraqi security forces to keep the peace.

BRAZIL - PLANE CRASH: Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is promising a thorough investigation into this week's jetliner crash at Sao Paulo's Congonhas airport that killed at least 189 people. In a nationally televised address Friday, Mr. Lula said that everything "possible and impossible" is being done to determine the cause of Tuesday's tragedy. He acknowledged the country's aviation system is undergoing "difficulties," but said it complies with all international standards. The president has been criticized for not appearing in public since Tuesday's crash. His administration has also been criticized for failing to confront Brazil's air traffic safety problems.

BUSH - HEALTH: President Bush has temporarily transferred power to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney today while Mr. Bush undergoes a medical procedure. The president has been placed under anesthesia while doctors conduct a colonoscopy - a test to look for potential cancer - at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. Cheney briefly assumed power in 2002 when the president underwent a similar procedure. The transfer of power is allowed under the U.S. Constitution. The first time it occurred was in 1985, when Vice President George H.W. Bush, the president's father, assumed power when then President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery.

US - TORTURE BAN: President Bush has issued an executive order banning the use of torture against al-Qaida or Taleban members held by the CIA. The executive order applies the Geneva Conventions' protection against cruel or degrading treatment of prisoners of war to detainees that the United States considers illegal armed combatants. The presidential directive says torture must not be used during the interrogation or detention of any members of al-Qaida, the Taleban and related armed groups. It also makes clear that they must not be the target of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment.

BOLIVIA - PROTEST: Hundreds of thousands of people have massed in the streets of Bolivia to protest efforts to move the seat of government from the capital, La Paz, to the colonial city of Sucre. Local television broadcast images of flag-waving protesters who gathered in the La Paz area Friday for what was described as one of the largest demonstrations ever held in Bolivia. Many of the protesters carried banners that read "the capital is not moving." Critics say moving the capital to Sucre would cost the impoverished country billions of dollars, and it would divide the nation.

ALBANIA POL: Albania's parliament has elected Bamir Topi from the ruling Democratic party as the country's new president. The 50-year-old Mr. Topi received 85 votes Friday, after some opposition lawmakers broke with their coalition's call for a boycott to join in the vote. A presidential candidate must win at least 84 votes to be elected in the 140-member parliament. Mr. Topi replaces President Alfred Moisiu, whose term expires July 24th.

INDIA - ELECTION: Indian election officials say Pratibha Patil has become the country's first female president. The election commission announced that Ms. Patil, of the ruling Congress Party, defeated opposition-backed Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat (of the Bharatiya Janata Party) in Thursday's vote by national and state lawmakers. Her election to the largely ceremonial post follows what analysts called one of India's most bitter political contests in which questions were raised about scandals involving members of her family.

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