TURKEY - KURDS - IRAQ: An Iraqi delegation met with Turkish officials in Ankara today in an effort to defuse tensions between the two sides over Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq. Turkey has been threatening to launch cross-border military operations against rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who have intensified attacks inside Turkey. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Thursday his government alone will decide whether it will launch a cross-border incursion, despite U.S. objections.
PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Authorities in northwestern Pakistan say government troops clashed with pro-Taliban militants in the remote Swat valley today. Officials say the firefight erupted when troops surrounded the hideout of a militant cleric (Maulana Fazlullah), who in recent days has been urging his supporters to attack the Pakistani army and other security forces. There were no immediate reports of casualties. On Thursday, at least 30 people, mostly soldiers, were killed in a roadside bomb blast that targeted a military truck near the region's main town (Mingora).
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas began talks in Jerusalem today in an effort to work out a joint statement for an upcoming peace conference. The two sides have been trying to narrow differences on the document ahead of the U.S. sponsored conference to be held this year in Annapolis, Maryland. The Palestinians want a detailed document addressing core issues, such as final borders, the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees, while Israel is seeking a more general document.
US - WILDFIRES: Authorities in California say they have discovered the bodies of four people near the U.S.-Mexico border where one of several raging wildfires broke out earlier this week. The badly burned bodies of three men and one woman were found Thursday east of the southern city of San Diego. Authorities believe the victims were illegal immigrants who were overcome by flames as they tried to cross the border. Also Thursday, the bodies of a man and woman were found in a home in the San Diego area. At least five other people died during evacuations.
US - SPACE SHUTTLE: Two crewmen of the U.S. space shuttle Discovery have begun the first of five spacewalks aimed at installing a new section on the International Space Station. Astronauts Scott Parazynski and Douglas Wheelock floated out of the space station's airlock this (Friday) morning about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. They will move a broken antenna assembly from the station to Discovery's payload bay for return to Earth. After that, the space-walkers will help move a new docking module from the shuttle's bay to its position on the space station.
SOKOR - US: South Korea's foreign minister says U.S. troops will remain on the Korean peninsula -- even if the two Koreas reach a peace deal to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War. Speaking in Seoul today, Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said if a peace treaty is reached, the U.S. military will continue to play a role that suits the new security environment in northeast Asia. The leaders of North and South Korea said at their meeting earlier this month that their countries wanted to organize a summit of parties to the cease-fire to discuss the issue.
PHILIPPINE - POL: Ousted Philippine President Joseph Estrada emerged from house detention today as a free man, after his successor pardoned him of corruption charges. The pardon Thursday by President Gloria Arroyo came after Estrada was convicted of corruption and sentenced to life in prison. The former leader said his first act as a free man will be to visit his ailing 102-year old mother in Manila. He had spent more than six years in detention. Presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Mr. Estrada was pardoned after he publicly agreed not to run again for office.
BURMA: A U.N. envoy is hailing talks between Burma's detained pro- democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a newly appointed Burmese official, but says the meeting is just the first step. Speaking in Tokyo today, U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari said he is hopeful the meeting will lead to the early resumption of dialogue on pro-democracy issues. He said much more is needed to produce tangible and concrete results. Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years, met Thursday for one hour with Burma's labor minister, Aung Kyi. Burma's state-media showed pictures of the meeting, but released no specific details.
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