BURMA: U.N. diplomats say a Security Council statement that "strongly deplores" Burma's recent military crackdown of pro-democracy protesters is almost complete and could be approved as early as today. Individual council members have taken a copy of the non-binding draft statement back to their respective capitals and are expected to meet again today in New York to try and finalize the document. Diplomats say the revised draft statement does not condemn Burma's repression of the protesters, but it does call for a release of political prisoners and detainees.
BURMA SDBAR - REACT: U.S. jewelry companies are calling for a ban on the import of gems from Burma to protest the military-ruled country's recent bloody crackdown of pro-democracy protests. Jewelers of America, which represents some 11-thousand jewelers -- including Cartier and Tiffany -- is urging its members to make sure their gems do not come from Burma. They are also asking U.S. lawmakers to strengthen sanctions against the country to include a specific ban on the import of gems, even those that are cut and polished outside Burma.
US - CHINA - TIBET: China has criticized a plan by the U.S. Congress to present Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, with its highest medal next week. China's Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters today the ministry strongly opposes the plan to give the Dalai Lama what he referred to as the "so-called" Congressional Gold Medal. The spokesman said China opposes any attempts by any person to use the Dalai Lama to interfere in its own internal affairs. China challenges attempts by the Dalai Lama to meet with world leaders, accusing him of secretly promoting separatism. Last month, the Dalai Lama met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A U.S. team of nuclear experts is in North Korea for talks on the disabling the North's main nuclear facilities. China's Xinhua news agency, one of the few foreign media organizations allowed to have staff in Pyongyang, said the team arrived on an afternoon flight from Beijing. The team of experts is being led by the head of the State Department's Korea Desk, Sung Kim. Before departing today for the North's capital, Kim told reporters that the team was looking forward to a very productive visit. Kim said the team plans to stay in North Korea for a "week or so" to finalize discussions on how facilities will be disabled and the scope of that effort.
MALAYSIA - SPACE: Malaysia's minister of science and technology says he hopes the country's first astronaut, who lifted off into space Wednesday, will inspire a new generation of Malaysian scientists. In an interview today with VOA, Jamaluddin Jarjis said he also hopes the space voyage will raise the bar for Malaysia in terms of acquiring knowledge for the future. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, a 35-year old physician, blasted off into space in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft and is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Friday.
NEPAL - POLITICS: Nepal's parliament convenes a special session today to consider demands by Maoists to end the Himalayan country's monarchy and declare the state a republic. The former rebels are also pressing to change the electoral system to one they believe will give them a better chance at the polls. The communists have vowed to bring down Nepal's interim government if their demands are not met. Their leaders say they would then begin "agitations" nationwide. But they stopped short of vowing to again resort to widespread violence. Lawmakers in the special session are dominated by the Nepali Congress Party.
PAKISTAN - POL: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's party has rejected a call from President Pervez Musharraf to delay her return from exile, insisting she will land in Pakistan as planned next week. On Wednesday, Mr. Musharraf urged Ms. Bhutto to postpone her return until the Supreme Court rules on the legality of his landslide victory in Saturday's controversial presidential elections. A spokesman for Ms. Bhutto says she will return as scheduled on October 18th. President Musharraf and Ms. Bhutto have been in talks on a possible power-sharing deal. Last week, General Musharraf granted amnesty to Ms. Bhutto and other politicians, clearing the way for such an agreement.
US - TURKEY - ARMENIA: Turkish President Abdullah Gul is denouncing a resolution passed by a U.S. congressional panel declaring the early 20th century massacre of Armenians under the Turkish Ottoman Empire a genocide. The House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee passed the non-binding resolution Wednesday by a vote of 27 to 21. It now goes to the 435-member House for a full vote. Mr. Gul says the measure is unacceptable, and has no validity among the Turkish people. He says House members who voted in favor of it ignored what he calls common sense in favor of petty politics.
AFRICA - REPORT: A new report says wars in Africa between 1990 and 2005 cost the continent nearly 300 billion dollars - roughly the same as the amount received in foreign aid. The report was released Thursday by Oxfam and two other international non-governmental organizations that estimated the cost of armed conflicts in 23 countries. The groups cited the global arms trade as a significant contributor to the violence in Africa that has caused the loss of millions of lives and impeded economic development.
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