PAKISTAN - MOSQUE: Pakistani authorities are investigating a suicide bomb attack near Islamabad's radical Red Mosque that killed at least 13 people and wounded more than 50 others. The blast occurred Friday at a restaurant near the complex, shortly after hundreds of Islamic students clashed with security forces. The students threw stones at police, who responded with tear gas. Most of the victims of the suicide attack were policemen. Hundreds of people re-occupied the mosque Friday morning. They chased away a cleric chosen by the government to lead afternoon prayers, and demanded the return of the pro-Taleban mosque's former cleric, Abdul Aziz, who is in police custody.
AFGHANISTAN - HOSTAGES: A South Korean special envoy (Baek
Jong-chun) is expected to hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul today to step up efforts to free 22 South Koreans held hostage by the Taleban. Another negotiating deadline set by the insurgents passed Friday with no word on the hostages' fate. A purported Taleban spokesman said earlier the hostages were still alive, although the Associated Press quoted the spokesman as saying some of the captives were in bad health. Negotiators say they are struggling with conflicting demands made by the kidnappers, including the release of several Taleban prisoners, withdrawal of South Korean troops from the country and money from South Korea.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A second team of U.N. nuclear experts traveled to North Korea today to monitor the shutdown and sealing of the country's only plutonium-producing reactor. The team will replace an initial group that went to North Korea July 12th to supervise the shutdown of the Yongbyon reactor. North Korea shut down five key nuclear facilities at its main Yongbyon complex earlier this month as part of a six-nation agreement reached in February to disable Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programs. According to the deal, North Korea will declare all of its nuclear programs and dismantle them in exchange for fuel aid and political benefits.
US - INDIA - NUCLEAR: The United States and India have
concluded two years of negotiations on a long-delayed landmark civilian nuclear agreement. Several key sticking points held up finalization of the deal, which still must be approved by the U.S. Congress, the Indian parliament and the International Atomic Energy Agency. In final talks with U.S. officials, India won the highly controversial right to continue testing nuclear weapons and to reprocess spent fuel - two issues the U.S. had previously refused to agree to. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns told reporters the United States agreed to give India long-term permission to reprocess nuclear material because New Delhi has committed to building a new reprocessing facility that would only use such material.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thai authorities say soldiers will be deployed around the capital, Bangkok, to help maintain order following violent protests involving demonstrators opposed to the military-installed government. Authorities made their announcement Friday after demonstrators from the group, "The United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship," said it had chosen nine new leaders to replace organizers arrested in connection with the protests. Supporters gathered outside the Bangkok jail where eight of the leaders are still being held. The only organizer to request bail, Jaran Ditapichai, was released Friday after a court granted his request.
AUSTRALIA - BRITAIN - TERROR: Australia says an Indian doctor
will be allowed to leave the country after prosecutors dropped charges linking him to the recent failed terrorist bombings in London. Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews told reporters today that the Commonwealth has no objection to Dr. Mohamed Haneef leaving Australia. Andrews also said the government would not reinstate Haneef's work visa. The announcement came after Haneef's lawyer said today that his client wanted to leave the country as soon as possible for his home in India. Australia's Director of Public Prosecutions, Damian Bugg, withdrew the case against Haneef Friday.
US SECURITY: U.S. lawmakers have passed a new anti-terrorism bill intended to tighten security on sea and air shipments, and to spend federal money in locations deemed to be at high risk of attack. The House of Representatives approved the measure Friday by a vote of 371 to 40. The Senate approve the measure Thursday by an 85 to eight margin. The legislation is intended to meet several recommendations of a special commission that investigated the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The measure requires screening of all cargo on passenger planes within three years.
ASEAN - RIGHTS: Diplomats say Southeast Asian nations are not
able to agree on setting up a human rights commission, and on sanctions against members who fail to obey their regional bloc's rules. Negotiators meeting in the Philippines are rushing to complete a draft of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation's first charter before foreign ministers from the 10-nation group meet Sunday. The bloc has agreed on most of the charter, which will help to turn the group into a rules-based organization along the lines of the European Union.
BURMA - CONSTITUTION: A human rights group has called on Southeast Asian nations to press Burma's military rulers to lay out a credible transition to democracy as they wrap up work on a long-stalled constitution. Last week, the military opened what it said will be the final session of its constitutional talks, which have dragged on since 1993. Human Rights Watch warns that the constitution under discussion would not end widespread rights violations in Burma. The group says the current version of the charter would cement the military's role in politics, reserve one quarter of seats in parliament for soldiers and bar democracy leader and Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi from running in elections.
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