IRAN NUCLEAR: Iran's government spokesman says the top negotiator for the country's controversial nuclear program, Ali Larijani, has resigned. Iran's official news agency (IRNA) quotes government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham as saying today that Larijani had resigned repeatedly, and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad finally accepted his resignation. However, no reason was given for Larijani's resignation. Larijani said this week he would hold more talks Tuesday in Rome with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
PAKISTAN - BHUTTO: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto says she knew she was a target for assassination when she returned home to Karachi this week, but that she decided not to allow such threats to change her plans. Speaking to reporters Friday at her family home in Karachi, Ms. Bhutto said a foreign government had informed her that four assassination teams, including suicide squads from the Taliban and al-Qaida, were planning attacks against her. Deadly explosions that ripped through a crowd greeting Ms. Bhutto Thursday killed at least 136 people and wounded hundreds of others.
PAKISTAN VIOLENCE: Pakistani police say a bomb blast has killed at least seven people and wounded about 15 others in southwestern Baluchistan province. Authorities say the blast occurred today at the main market in the tribal village of Dera Bugti as people were waiting at a bus terminal. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack. Authorities routinely blame rebel tribesmen for attacks on security forces, gas pipelines and gas fields in the province. Oil-rich Baluchistan is in the grip of a low-level insurgency by tribal rebels demanding more political autonomy and a great share of profits from the region's natural resources.
FINANCE MEETING: Member nations of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank will open their annual meeting in Washington today in the shadow of a worldwide economic slowdown. The global economy has been rocked by the slumping U.S. housing market, a decline in the U.S. dollar, and rising oil prices. U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson says the U.S. housing decline is "the most significant current risk" to the economy. Paulson also asserted that the United States is still committed to a strong dollar.
IRAQ: U.S. military officials say a Marine battalion commander and an enlisted man will face courts-martial on charges related to the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha in Iraq two years ago. Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Chessani is charged with failing to report and investigate the fatal shootings, and dereliction of duty. Marine officials (in San Diego, California) also say Lance Corporal Stephen Tatum is accused of involuntary manslaughter and other charges. The military has dropped a previous plan to charge several other Marines in the case, including some who claimed they fired on the civilians at Haditha in response to an attack.
BURMA: President Bush has announced new sanctions against Burma's military government, for its continued persecution of the pro-democracy opposition. Speaking in Washington Friday Mr. Bush said he ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to put additional economic restrictions on Burma's leaders and individuals who support them. He also instructed the Commerce Department to tighten its export controls for Burma. In his address, the president also urged Burma's neighbors -- naming China and India -- to put more pressure on the military government. He also praised the European Union and Australia for imposing sanctions.
THAILAND - PEDOPHILE: Police in Thailand say a suspected Canadian pedophile has denied charges he molested underage children in Thailand. Christopher Paul Neil was arrested Friday at a house in Thailand's rural northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, following a global manhunt. He was taken to the Royal National Police headquarters in Bangkok, where a court later ordered that he be detained for another 12 days for further investigation. Detectives in various countries had been hunting Neil since German police discovered photographs on the Internet three years ago of a man sexually abusing boys in Vietnam and Cambodia.
VENEZUELA - CONSTITUTION: Leaders of Venezuela's Roman Catholic Church say constitutional changes called for by President Hugo Chavez will turn the country into an authoritarian state. The church issued an open letter Friday calling on Venezuelans to reject a series of amendments when they come up for a vote in December. The amendments include eliminating presidential term limits, detaining citizens without charge during national emergencies, and restricting the public's access to information during an emergency. Church leaders say the changes amount to the concentration of power in the president's hands.
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