HURRICANE DEAN: Weather forecasters say the eye of Hurricane Dean has made landfall on the east coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and is lashing Belize and Mexico's Caribbean coast with high winds and driving rain. The U.S. National Hurricane Center issued an advisory saying preparations in the hurricane warning area along the Gulf Coast of Mexico should be rushed to completion. The U.S. National Weather Service said Monday the storm had strengthened into a potentially catastrophic category five hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 260 kilometers per hour.
US - IRAQ: The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has called the government of Iraq "non-functional," and said the Iraqi parliament should oust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, if he is unable to forge a political compromise with rival factions. Democratic Senator Carl Levin made the remark late Monday, following a two-day visit to Iraq with Republican Senator John Warner. Senator Warner did not explicitly call for the removal of the Maliki government. But in a joint statement the two Senators said that, while the increased number of U.S. troops in Iraq succeeded in improving security, the Iraqi government has failed take advantage of the situation to make necessary compromises to bring peace to the country.
IRAQ: The Iraqi High Tribunal has begun the trial of 15 former aides to executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on charges of widespread brutality to suppress a 1991 Shi'ite uprising. The third trial of top officials of Saddam's deposed government got underway today. The court will look into the killing of thousands of Shi'ites during a rebellion in Iraq's southern provinces after the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The defendants include Saddam's cousin, Ali Hassan al-Majid -- also known as "Chemical Ali" -- who has already been sentenced to death for crimes against Iraq's minority Kurdish community in the 1980's (-- known as the 'Anfal' campaign).
IRAN NUCLEAR: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator has warned the U.N. Security Council against imposing new sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, saying doing so would be a "grave mistake." Iranian state media quote Ali Larijani as saying a new sanctions resolution would make Iran's cooperation with the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency "futile." Larijani spoke Monday on the first day of talks in Tehran between between senior officials from Iran and the IAEA. The talks, aimed at resolving questions about Iran's nuclear program, are scheduled to continue Tuesday.
US - IRAN - BROADCAST: The wife of a former U.S. federal agent has made a broadcast appeal to the Iranian people asking for information about her husband who disappeared earlier this year in Iran. Christine Levinson spoke Sunday on VOA's Persian-language "News and Views." She asked that anybody who knows the whereabouts of her husband, Bob Levinson, come forward with the information. Mr. Levinson was last seen in March in the Iranian resort of Kish Island while on a business trip. The Iranian government has denied any knowledge of the missing man, but the U.S. State Department says it finds that claim hard to believe.
KAZAKHSTAN ELECTION: The United States has joined the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in its criticism of Kazakhstan's parliamentary elections Saturday, in which the ruling party won all 98 contested seats. A State Department spokesman said Monday he agrees with the OSCE's assessment that the elections were seriously flawed and did not fully meet international standards. No opposition candidates won a single parliamentary seat. In addition, the final nine seats in the 107-member legislature were chosen by the Assembly of the People, which is entirely appointed by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
SIERRA LEONE - ELECTION: The two main opposition candidates in Sierra Leone's presidential election say they are joining forces to try to beat the country's vice president in a run-off vote. After finishing third in last week's election, Charles Margai of the People's Movement for Democratic Change announced Monday that he would support Ernest Koroma of the All People's Congress Party. Koroma is leading the race with 44 percent of the vote. Vice President Solomon Berewa of the ruling Sierra Leone People's Party is second with 38 percent. Sierra Leone's electoral commission released the latest results Monday after counting ballots from 93 percent of all polling stations.
VIETNAM - VISAS: Vietnamese state media say the Hanoi government will grant visa exemptions September first to millions of Vietnamese living abroad, as part of a push to attract more investment and boost economic growth. State media reported Monday that the exemption, first announced by President Nguyen Minh Triet in June, had been approved. Newspaper reports say the Vietnamese diaspora, known as Viet Kieu, can apply for exemption certificates valid for five years that will allow individuals to return to their former homeland for 90-day visits, which can be extended.
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