US - IRAQ: The Iraqi government has welcomed the recommendation of the top U.S. commander in Iraq to reduce the number of American troops in the country during the next year, while maintaining the level needed for security until Iraqis can take up that responsibility. General David Petraeus told a House of Representatives panel Monday that the 30-thousand additional "surge" forces deployed to Iraq by President Bush could be home by the middle of next year. He said the eight-month U.S. troop build-up in Iraq has led to a reduction in civilian casualties, and that other military goals are largely being met.
US - 9/11 ANNIVERSARY: Americans today are marking the sixth anniversary of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, with ceremonies in New York and Washington. President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will hold a moment of silence on the White House lawn. In New York, rescue workers and families of victims will read out the names of the two-thousand-750 victims killed there. The key planner of the attacks, al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, today released a videotape eulogizing one of the suicide hijackers who attacked the United States.
BURMA - PROTESTS: Reports by Burmese dissident media say Buddhist monks may stop accepting alms from soldiers unless the Burmese government apologizes for attacking monks last week. The Thailand-based "Irrawaddy" magazine reports today that a group of Burmese monks is demanding the apology by next week. It says the monks are upset about an attack by government forces on Buddhist clergy during anti-government protests in the central city of Pakokku last Wednesday. Security forces arrested and beat several monks during the protest against the military government's economic policies. Witnesses said soldiers also fired warning shots over the monks' heads.
PAKISTAN POLITICS: Lawyers for former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif have filed a petition in the Supreme Court, challenging his expulsion to Saudi Arabia after he returned from exile Monday. The lawyers say the petition they filed today asks the high court to start contempt proceedings against the government for violating a ruling the court issued last month allowing Mr. Sharif to return home. Mr. Sharif was deported to Saudi Arabia after trying to return home following seven years in exile. He had arrived in Islamabad with plans to challenge President Pervez Musharraf in upcoming elections.
US - NOKOR NUCLEAR: A team of U.S. officials is in North Korea on a rare visit to review Pyongyang's efforts to disarm its nuclear program. The U.S. team traveled from South Korea across the heavily fortified border into North Korea today. It will be joined by experts from Russia and China during a five-day survey of key North Korean nuclear facilities. This visit is part of international efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program. China, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States have offered North Korea fuel aid and political concessions if the reclusive state fully accounts for and seals its nuclear weapons program.
CHINA - OLYMPICS SECURITY: Chinese security officials say terrorism is the biggest threat to next year's Beijing Olympics. The official China Daily newspaper today quotes the minister of public security (Zhou Yongkang) as saying that separatism and extremism could be security challenges. But despite the threats, the minister said the general security situation for the Games is stable. Interpol says it will help Chinese authorities secure the Olympics. The global police agency will provide fingerprints and photographs of international criminal suspects to enhance screening for suspected threats.
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