US - IRAQ: A former commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq has sharply criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war, saying the current situation is "a nightmare with no end in sight." Retired Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said Friday that current strategies, including the latest surge of some 30-thousand additional forces, are a "desperate attempt" to handle the realities of the war. The retired general called the initial war plan "catastrophically flawed" and "unrealistically optimistic." He deplored what he called "incompetent strategic leadership" among U.S. national leaders.
SUDAN - POLITICS: The United States says it is concerned about a decision by southern Sudan's main party to suspend its participation in the national government. A State Department spokesman called on both Sudan's ruling National Congress Party and the southern Sudan People's Liberation Movement -- or SPLM -- to immediately withdraw their armed forces along the North-South border in accordance with a 2005 peace agreement. He also called on the two sides to redouble their efforts to fully implement the agreement in good faith and adhere to cease-fires.
US - SAF - APARTHEID: A U.S. appeals court is allowing claims to go forward against a number of major companies accused of supporting apartheid in South Africa. The federal court in New York said a Manhattan judge had erred in dismissing the case in 2004. The plaintiffs in the class action suit argue that the companies collaborated with South Africa's government to maintain the racist apartheid system. The U.S. government has opposed the suit, saying the litigation could interfere with South Africa's reconciliation and could compromise relations between the countries.
BURMA: Reports from Southeast Asia say at least four activists have been arrested in Burma, as the country's military government continues its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Human rights sources say one of the activists arrested today is Htay Kywe, a student activist during an uprising in 1988. Meanwhile, demonstrators have gathered in Rangoon for a government-orchestrated rally in support of Burma's military government. Burma's government violently crushed protests last month, triggering condemnation by the United Nations. The U.N. Security Council issued a statement Thursday deploring the military crackdown, and calling for a genuine dialogue with opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
BURMA - OPIUM: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime says opium poppy cultivation in Burma has increased 29-percent this year, undermining progress toward a drug-free area in the so-called Golden Triangle. U.N. officials say opium poppy farming in Burma is flourishing again after an 80 percent decline from 1998 to 2006 following an eradication campaign in the area where the borders of Burma, Thailand and Laos meet. The U.N. blames this year's increase in cultivation on corruption, poverty and a lack of government control.
BURMA - PM OBIT: Burma's hard-line Prime Minister General Soe Win has died at a military hospital in Rangoon after a long battle with leukemia. He was 59. The country's state radio confirmed his death Friday. Soe Win had been Burma's prime minister since 2004 and in May handed his duties to acting Prime Minister General Thein Sein. He did not have much influence in the current military government run by Senior General Than Shwe. Soe Win died as authorities continue their crackdown on pro-democracy activists following last month's demonstrations by Buddhist monks and others.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thailand's military installed government Friday announced a proposal to lift martial law in 11 of 35 provinces. But the government proposes to place new restrictions on three provinces (Nong Khai, Phanom and Mukdahan) that border Laos. Former head of the military government, Sonthi Boonyaratglin, told reporters that martial law will remain in regions that are prone to drug problems. Many of the restricted provinces also supported the former political party of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Thai Rak Thai). Thai prosecutors flew to England today to discuss the possibility of extraditing Mr. Thaksin on corruption charges.
BANGLADESH - TRAIN WRECK: Officials in Bangladesh say at least four people were killed and about 50 were injured today when a train carrying people home for a major Muslim festival derailed. Police say many passengers were riding on the roof of the Probhati Express, on its way from the port city of Chittagong to the capital of Dhaka, when it went off the tracks near Baratakai. Authorities said it was not immediately clear what caused the derailment. Investigators will look into the incident. The train was packed with people heading for their home towns to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
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