PAKISTAN - ELECTIONS: Pakistan says it will hold its presidential election on October 6th, even as President Pervez Musharraf faces legal challenges in the Supreme Court over his controversial dual role as the country's leader and army chief. Pakistan election officials announced the date for the vote today and said nomination papers need to be submitted within a week (by September 27). General Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, is all but certain to seek re-election.
AL QAIDA - VIDEO: An Islamist web site says it will soon carry a new video from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden declaring war on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and the country's army. The posting today did not say if bin Laden would appear on the video or his message would be carried on an accompanying audio tape. Hours earlier, al-Qaida released a new video from bin Laden's deputy -- Ayman al-Zawahiri -- condemning the Pakistani military's assault in July on Islamic militants who took over the Red Mosque in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad. In that video, Zawahiri paid tribute to the militant leader Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the raid, and called for revenge.
LEBANON BLAST: Lebanese leaders are vowing to press ahead with a presidential election scheduled for next week, despite Wednesday's assassination of an anti-Syrian lawmaker. Prime Minister Fuad Siniora said the killing of Antoine Ghanem was aimed at silencing lawmakers before the vote. He urged the United Nations to add the killing of Ghanem to its probe into the assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians in Lebanon. Ghanem was a member of the pro-government coalition locked in a power struggle with opposition groups backed by Syria. Lebanon's legislature is scheduled to meet September 25th to start choosing a new president to succeed pro-Syrian head of state Emile Lahoud.
US - IRAN DETAINEE: Iran has released Iranian-American social scientist Kian Tajbakhsh, who had been held in Tehran's Evin prison since May. The official IRNA news agency quoted the office of the judiciary as saying Tajbakhsh was freed late Wednesday after paying bail (of about 110-thousand dollars). He is now with his wife at home in Tehran. Tajbakhsh, a consultant with the U.S - based Soros Foundation's Open Society Institute, is the third Iranian-American to be freed in recent weeks. Iranian-American journalist Parnaz Azima left Iran Tuesday -- also after paying bail (of about 550-thousand dollars).
US - MIDEAST: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank before holding another round of talks with Israeli leaders later today. Rice is trying to narrow the gap between Israeli and Palestinian visions of Palestinian statehood, ahead of a U.S.- sponsored conference on Middle East peace planned for November. Meanwhile, Israel is promising not to provoke a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip, after announcing its decision (Wednesday) to declare the Hamas-ruled territory an "enemy entity."
BURMA - PROTESTS: Hundreds of Buddhist monks have marched through Rangoon in one of the most defiant protests against Burma's military government in at least a decade. Witnesses say the monks chanted prayers today as they entered the revered Shwedagon pagoda, which authorities had locked earlier this week. The monks then marched through the rain to another pagoda. Today is the third straight day the monks have marched peacefully through Rangoon. They have taken the lead in demonstrations that began last month after the government doubled the price of fuel, making transportation difficult for many of Burma's impoverished citizens.
CAMBODIA - KHMER ROUGE: A spokesman for the U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia says a former Khmer Rouge leader charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity will receive medical care in prison to ensure he is fit to stand trial. The spokesman said today 82-year-old Nuon Chea is in good health and will receive the best medical care to keep him that way. Nuon Chea was detained Wednesday in his hometown of Pailin, a former Khmer Rouge stronghold in northwestern Cambodia. He spent his first night as a prisoner in the tribunal's detention center on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
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