IRAQ: The U.S. military says coalition forces have killed one al-Qaida-in-Iraq terrorist and detained eight suspects during operations in Baghdad and northern and central Iraq today. The military also announced the deaths of two American soldiers. It said both soldiers died Thursday. One was killed in combat in Diyala province and the other died in a non-combat related incident in the city of Kirkuk. In southern Iraq, police say gunmen shot dead a top aide to the country's most respected Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
LEBANON: Mourners have gathered in Beirut today for the funeral of an anti-Syrian lawmaker, whose assassination has fueled tensions ahead of a parliament session to choose the country's next president. Senior lawmakers and political leaders were expected to attend the funeral of Antoine Ghanem, who was killed in a bomb blast in a Christian suburb of east Beirut Wednesday. Ghanem was a member of the pro-government coalition locked in a power struggle with opposition groups backed by Syria. Lebanon's parliament is scheduled to meet Tuesday to start choosing a new president to succeed pro-Syrian head of state Emile Lahoud.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan authorities say a suicide bomber has struck a convoy of French troops in Kabul, killing at least one soldier and wounding several Afghan civilians. Police say the attack happened in a western part of the city early today. French soldiers are deployed in the region as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance force in Afghanistan. The U.S. military says U.S. and Afghan forces raided an insurgent hideout in southern Helmand province, killing about 40 Taleban fighters. It said large caches of arms and ammunition were seized during the operation (in Garmsir district).
CHINA - VATICAN: China's state-controlled Catholic Church has installed a cleric well-regarded by the Vatican as bishop of Beijing. Father Joseph Li Shan was appointed to the influential post today in a ceremony at Beijing's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The Roman Catholic church maintains that only the pope can appoint bishops, and the Vatican did not officially approve Li's appointment. But earlier this year, the Vatican secretary of state (Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone) called Li a good candidate for the position. Li replaces Bishop Fu Tieshan, who died in April. The appointment of bishops has long been a sticking point in relations between the Vatican and Beijing.
CHINA - TAIWAN - OLYMPICS: Officials in Taiwan say the torch relay for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games will not come to the island after negotiations with China failed. Officials said today the two sides were unable to reach agreement in more than one month of talks. Today was the deadline the International Olympic Committee set to resolve the issue. Taiwan earlier rejected China's plan to place the island next to the Chinese territory of Hong Kong along the relay route. China and Taiwan split in 1949 at the end of a civil war. Beijing still considers the island part of its territory and has threatened to use force if Taiwan declares itself independent.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: China says it will host the next round of six- party talks on North Korea's nuclear program next week. The foreign ministry said today that the talks will be held from September 27th through the 30th in Beijing. Envoys from China, the two Koreas, the United States, Russia and Japan are to discuss the second phase of a nuclear disarmament agreement reached last February. In the second phase, North Korea is required to declare all of its nuclear programs and disable its existing nuclear facilities. In return, it is to receive fuel and political concessions. North Korea completed the first phase of the deal in July by shutting down its main nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.
BURMA - PROTESTS: Witnesses in Burma say at least 600 Buddhist monks protested today in Rangoon, in their fourth straight day of demonstrations. Braving intense rain, the maroon-robed monks chanted prayers as they walked from the Shwedagon Pagoda, the holiest shrine in Burma, to downtown Rangoon. The monks 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. Authorities arrested at least 50 activists in those demonstrations. The government acknowledged using tear gas and firing warning shots to break up a protest in Sittwe Tuesday.
PAKISTAN: Opposition activists in Pakistan have held a rally outside the Supreme Court in Islamabad, protesting President Pervez Musharraf's plan to seek re-election while remaining the country's army chief. Hundreds of supporters of the country's largest religious party (Jamaat-e-Islami) and several other smaller parties chanted anti-Musharraf slogans today as the court held hearings on legal challenges to the president's eligibility to seek re-election. The court is expected to issue its ruling early next week. General Musharraf, who is seeking another five-year term in next month's (October 6th) election, has said he will quit as army chief, if re-elected.
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