IRAQ: Iraqi police say at least 50 people were killed when a suicide bomber detonated a fuel tanker near a gas station in western Baghdad. The attack also wounded 60 people today (Wednesday) in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. Earlier, a car bomb blast in central Baghdad killed at least 17 people and wounded more than 30 others. In political developments, Iraq's largest Sunni Arab political bloc has announced its withdrawal from Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's coalition government, saying he has failed to meet the bloc's demands. A spokesman (Rafaa al-Issawi) for the Iraqi Accordance Front said the bloc's six cabinet ministers would submit their resignations today.
U.S-MIDEAST: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Israel on the latest leg of her regional tour, hoping to stimulate dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians. Rice is due to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and other senior leaders. And on Thursday, she is expected to travel to the West Bank city of Ramallah for talks with Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas. Rice traveled to Tel Aviv from Saudi Arabia today (Wednesday), where she won the kingdom's support for President Bush's proposed Middle East peace conference later this year.
AFGHAN HOSTAGES: There is no word on the fate of the remaining 21 South Korean hostages held by the Taleban in Afghanistan, after the militants' latest deadline passed today (Wednesday). The Taleban had given the government until noon local time (0730 UTC) to meet their demand of exchanging prisoners for the hostages. The Afghan government has refused to free jailed militants. Two of the hostages have already been killed and a self-described Taleban spokesman (Qari Yusuf Ahmadi) said more hostages will die if the group's demand is not met.
T HAILAND VIOLENCE: Shootings and bomb attacks in Thailand's southern provinces ( of Yala and Narathiwat) have killed three and wounded 12 others. Six bombs exploded this morning (Wednesday) across Narathiwat province. One bomb, hidden in a motorcycle at a busy market, killed a woman and wounded at least 11 others. The other bomb blasts caused no casualties. Elsewhere, police say insurgents shot at a patrol guarding a railway in Yala province and killed two of four soldiers before stealing their weapons.
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