Authorities in Peru say at least 337 people are dead after a powerful earthquake rocked the South American nation late Wednesday night. Officials say hundreds of people were injured in the seven-point-nine magnitude quake, which struck off the coast of central Peru, about 145 kilometers southeast of the capital, Lima. The quake lasted just two minutes, but caused massive damage and mudslides across the country, and sent frightened Peruvians into the streets. Local reports say many of the deaths occurred when a church collapsed in the southern city of Ica. President Alan Garcia has ordered all public schools closed today because the buildings may be unsafe.
Iraqi police say a car bomb blast in central Baghdad has killed at least seven people and wounded 15 others. Police say the blast occurred in the parking lot of a commercial area (Al -Rusafi) during this (Thursday) morning's rush hour. In northeastern Iraq, rescuers are continuing to dig through rubble in areas devastated by Tuesday's four suicide truck bombings that killed at least 250 people. Officials say they expect the death toll to rise as more bodies are found.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is calling for an end to presidential term limits as part of his plans to reform his country's constitution. Mr. Chavez announced the proposals Wednesday during a speech before Venezuela's National Assembly. Along with ending presidential term limits, the leftist leader also wants to extend the term of office from six to seven years. Venezuela's current constitution limits the president to just two six-year terms in office. Mr. Chavez also proposed eliminating the autonomy of the country's central bank, giving him more control over the nation's financial reserves.
CENTRAL ASIA SUMMIT:
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says a U.S. missile-defense plan in Europe is a threat to countries across much of Asia. Mr. Ahmadinejad spoke in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan today (Thursday), at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The group includes Russia, China and four former-Soviet Central Asian countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan). Iran has observer status. Russia has led opposition to U.S. plans for a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic. The U.S. has said the system would counter threats of attack by rogue countries, including Iran.
NOKOR NUCLEAR: he chief U.S. nuclear envoy says he expects progress on technical details of shutting down North Korea's nuclear program during talks beginning today (Thursday). The two-day working group talks are being held in the Chinese city of Shenyang. They are expected to lay the groundwork for a September meeting of the six countries involved in talks on disarming North Korea's nuclear program. Earlier this week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said this week's talks should result in setting a timeline to end the North's nuclear program. The six nations taking part in the disarmament talks are North and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States.
World news in Lao.