US - IRAQ: A prominent U.S. lawmaker is calling on President Bush - a fellow Republican - to withdraw some American forces from Iraq by December. Senator John Warner (of Virginia) said Thursday that Mr. Bush could bring about five-thousand troops home to spur the Iraqi government toward political reconciliation, and show that the U.S. commitment to Iraq is not open-ended. Warner - the senior Republican Party lawmaker on the powerful Senate Armed Services committee - says the president should announce the withdrawal on September 15th, after a U.S. progress report on progress in Iraq is presented to Congress.
BANGLADESH: Bangladesh's military-backed interim government has relaxed a curfew imposed on the capital and five other cities following student protests demanding an end to emergency rule. A statement said the restrictions have been withdrawn for most of today. The curfew will take effect again at 10 p.m., local time (1600 UTC). Hours before the announcement, authorities detained two Dhaka University professors (Anwar Hossain and Harun-ur-Rashid). Family members said security personnel in plain clothes arrested the teachers at their homes on the campus.
PAK - VIOLENCE: Pakistan's army says at least five soldiers have been killed and five others wounded in a suicide car bomb attack on a military convoy in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghanistan border. A military spokesman said the attack occurred today on a road near Miran Shah - the main town in North Waziristan, which is regarded as a hot-bed of support for Taleban and al-Qaida militants. Earlier this week, four Pakistani soldiers were killed in separate militant attacks in tribal areas. Attacks on Pakistani security forces have surged since last month's collapse of a peace deal with pro-Taleban militants that was designed to drive out al-Qaida fighters from the tribal region.
BURMA - PROTESTS: Reports from Burma say authorities on the outskirts of Rangoon have detained another group of demonstrators protesting against a steep rise in fuel prices. At least 10 activists were arrested today just as they prepared to begin a protest march - the fourth such rally since the first on Sunday. Witnesses said at least 30 demonstrators marched Thursday in Rangoon. They say some of the demonstrators were beaten, dragged into vehicles and driven away. Witnesses say 300 people participated in a rally Wednesday, just one day after the government arrested 13 prominent democracy activists.
NOKOR FLOODS: South Korea has announced a new 40-million-dollar aid package for North Korea to help rebuild houses and roads that were devastated during its worst flooding in years. South Korea's Unification Minister (Lee Jae-joung) said today that Seoul will provide the North with cement, iron bars, trucks, fuel and road materials. On Thursday, South Korea started trucking supplies across the peninsula's heavily fortified border to the border town of Kaesong. Around 40 truckloads of instant noodles, blankets and emergency kits worth seven-and-one-half million dollars were delivered. The remainder of the (40-million-dollar) package will be sent by the end of this month.
NEPAL - POL: Nepal's multi-party interim government has decided to nationalize the royal palace in Kathmandu and other historic properties that King Gyanendra has inherited in the country. Senior officials say the Cabinet late Thursday decided to nationalize seven palaces used by the king, including the historic Durbar Square in central Kathmandu. However, they said the king and his family will be allowed to continue living in the capital's Narayanhity Palace until a constituent assembly makes a final decision on the future of the country. The assembly, which is expected to be elected later this year, is to write a new constitution for Nepal.
CHINA - BLIND ACTIVIST: Friends of a jailed activist in China say authorities have prevented his wife from leaving the country to accept a humanitarian award on his behalf. Friends of Yuan Weijing say she was not allowed to board a flight today from Beijing to the Philippines to attend the Magsaysay award ceremony. Yuan's husband, Chen Guangcheng, was one of several recipients of the Manila-based foundation's humanitarian awards. Chen is a self-taught law expert who was sentenced to four years in prison last year on charges of organizing a group to disrupt traffic and damage property.
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