IRAQ: The U.S. military says coalition forces have killed two al-Qaida-linked terrorists and detained 36 others in operations across central and northern Iraq. The military said the operations targeting the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist network were carried out today in areas near Tarmiyah, the cities of Baquba and Mosul and near Samara. Separately, the military announced the death of an American soldier, who was killed by an explosion near his vehicle during combat Wednesday in Diyala province. Also on Wednesday, Iraq's radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia to freeze all activities, including armed activities, for six months.
AFGHANISTAN VIOLENCE: The Afghan defense ministry says a top Taleban commander and several of his fighters have been killed in clashes with U.S.-led coalition forces in southern Afghanistan. The ministry says the fighting, which also involved air support, took place early today in Helmand province -- a known Taleban stronghold. It identified the dead commander (Mullah Brader) as a relative and close associate of Taleban chief Mullah Omar. The U.S. military in Afghanistan has not commented. Elsewhere in southern Afghanistan, one NATO soldier and an Afghan interpreter were killed while on patrol in the insurgency-hit southern part of the country today.
PAKISTAN - POL: Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has rejected "any pressure or ultimatum" to step down as army chief in a power-sharing deal with exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. General Musharraf's spokesman issued a statement today, saying the president will never work "under any pressure or ultimatum," adding that he will make "all decisions only in national interest at appropriate times," and according to law. On Wednesday, in interviews with various news agencies, Ms. Bhutto said she expected the president to quit his post of army chief before the next presidential elections expected later this year.
CHINA - POL: China's government says Finance Minister Jin Renqing has resigned for "personal reasons." A spokesman says Jin has been appointed to a new post as vice director of the State Council's Development Research Center. The job is equivalent to a ministerial-level position. The official Xinhua News Agency says Xie Xuren, the director of the State Administration of Taxation, will replace Jin. Jin had been finance minister since 2003, and previously served as the vice mayor of Beijing. The 63-year-old politician oversaw China's economy during concerns about increasing inflation rates and a surging stock market.
CHINA - CORRUPTION: Chinese state media say the jailed former Communist Party chief in Shanghai has been stripped of his last official post. The Xinhua News Agency says Chen Liangyu was dismissed today from his post as deputy to the National People's Congress, or NPC. The report says the NPC's Standing Committee approved Chen's removal, as proposed by the Shanghai Municipal People's Congress. Chen was expelled from the Communist Party last month and dismissed from all his government posts. He is awaiting trial for his alleged role in the misuse of about 400 million dollars of Shanghai's pension funds.
JAPAN - CHINA DEFENSE: Japanese officials say the country's defense minister has urged China to disclose more information about its growing military budget. Officials say Japan's Masahiko Komura called for more transparency during talks in Tokyo today with visiting Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan. Cao said China's military policy is based on self-defense purposes. Japanese officials say Cao explained that China has spent much of its increased military budget on salaries, uniforms and the modernization of equipment in line with global trends. China announced plans earlier this year to increase military spending by nearly 18 percent to about 45 billion dollars.
BURMA - PROTESTS: Burmese authorities are distributing the names and photographs of activists wanted by police for their participation in a rare string of anti-government protests. The military-run government has ordered local officials and the public to be on the look-out for the activists. Many of the protesters have gone into hiding. The opposition National League for Democracy says authorities detained more than 100 people last week, following a series of demonstrations against a steep increase in fuel prices. Most of the protests took place in Rangoon, but the unrest spread to other parts of the country, highlighting the widespread frustration with rising prices in the impoverished country.
US - BURMA: Two senior members of the U.S. Senate are urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to call on the United Nations Security Council to hold an emergency meeting on Burma. In a letter Wednesday, Senators Mitch McConnell (of Kentucky), leader of the Senate's Republican minority, and Dianne Feinstein (of California), Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary terrorism subcommittee, wrote that Burma's current human rights situation merits a "strong and meaningful response" by the United States. The senators criticized Burma's military government for repressive measures in response to the largest non-violent demonstrations in Burma in five years.
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