US – Mideast: Iran has condemned a major U.S. arms package for Saudi Arabia and other Arab allies, accusing Washington of spreading fear in the region.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters today (Monday) that the United States was trying to harm good relations between the countries in the region in order to export arms.
American and Israeli reports say the United States is preparing to announce a plan to sell advanced weapons worth 20 billion dollars to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf nations, to counter what U.S. officials see as a growing threat from Iran.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates are setting out today (Monday) for the Middle East, to seek support for efforts to stabilize Iraq.
The Cabinet officials will jointly visit Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday and later travel to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt for meetings with top officials.
Iraq: Iraqi police say a car bomb killed six people in central Baghdad today (Monday), ending the brief drop in violence that came while Iraq celebrated its first Asia Cup football championship.
Authorities said at least 12 people were wounded in the blast in al-Tayran square, a transport hub in the center of the city.
The bomb went off only hours after the expiration of a vehicle ban that had been imposed Sunday ahead of Iraq's football final in Jakarta against Saudi Arabia. Iraq won the championship 1-0 and tens of thousands of Iraqis poured into the streets to celebrate.
Last week, a bomb attack on a football celebration killed about 50 people.
US – Britain Visit: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is in the United States holding his first talks with President Bush since taking office last month.
Mr. Brown arrived in Washington late Sunday and flew by helicopter to join President Bush for a dinner meeting at (Camp David) the presidential retreat outside the U.S. capital (in rural Maryland). (Brown is staying overnight at Camp David, and) The two leaders are holding further talks later this (Monday) morning (and they also will meet with a small group of reporters).
On the agenda for Mr. Brown's first official U.S. visit (as prime minister) are talks about Britain's role in Iraq, the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region, Iran's nuclear ambitions and global trade issues.
In advance of Mr. Brown's arrival, a British newspaper ("The Sunday Times") reported the prime minister's top foreign-policy adviser (Simon McDonald) already has raised with U.S. officials the possibility of an early British pullout from Iraq.
Afghanistan Hostages: Taleban militants who had threatened to begin killing 22 South Korean hostages have extended a deadline by four hours (until 4 p.m. local time/11:30 UTC) to continue negotiations aimed at their release.
News of the extension came today (Monday) from a Taleban spokesman and from a statement posted on an Islamist Web site. An earlier deadline (noon local time/0730 UTC) passed with no word about the fate of the hostages, who were abducted July 19th.
Militants killed one of the Korean hostages last week, and have since repeatedly threatened to start killing the others if a series of deadlines were not met.
Negotiations aimed at freeing the hostages in exchange for release of jailed Taleban militants were reported to be stalled as the earlier deadline approached today.
China Weather: Chinese authorities blame global warming for torrential rains that have killed hundreds this year, as severe drought bakes other parts of the country.
Chinese authorities (the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters) say floods and landslides triggered by rain have killed at least 652 people, mainly in China's south and east.
Authorities put economic losses from this year's floods at seven billion dollars. The country has mobilized a quarter of a million people to fight floods along the Huaihe river in the country's east (Henan, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces).
In China's north and northeast, the worst drought in decades has left millions of people and livestock short of drinking water.
Japan Election: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is dismissing calls for his resignation after his ruling party suffered a major defeat in elections for the upper house of parliament.
Mr. Abe said today (Monday) that he will remain prime minister, and carry out planned reforms and promote economic growth. But he said Sunday's election defeat suggests voters want a change, and that he will reshuffle his Cabinet at an appropriate time.
On Sunday, Mr. Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner (New Komeito) won only 46 of the 121 seats up for re-election, while the main opposition Democratic Party won 60.
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