BURMA: More than 100 Buddhist monks have marched in central Burma, the first such gathering since the military government's bloody crackdown on protesters in September. Today's protest comes as diplomats in Rangoon said United Nations envoy Ibrahim Gambari will arrive on Saturday for his second visit to Burma. Witnesses say the maroon-robed monks did not shout any slogans or make political statements, but instead chanted prayers as they marched through Pakkoku. In September, soldiers fired shots over the heads of protesting monks in the town, and the government's actions rallied monks around the country to join the protests.
BURMA - CHILD SOLDIERS: A New York-based human rights group says children as young as age 10 are being forced to join Burma's armed forces. The Human Rights Watch report released today says Burmese military recruiters are targeting children to meet the increased demand for soldiers, and to compensate for a high rate of desertions and a lack of willing volunteers. The report, entitled "Sold to Be Soldiers: The Recruitment and Use of Child Soldiers in Burma," says military recruiters and civilian brokers receive cash payments and other incentives even if recruits violate minimum age and health standards.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill is meeting his North Korean counterpart today in China for final discussions before Pyongyang begins the process of disabling its nuclear program this week. Speaking with reporters before his meeting with Kim Kye Kwan in Beijing, (Assistant Secretary of State) Hill said the disarmament process is in good shape overall. A team of U.S. experts is scheduled to travel to Pyongyang on Thursday and begin the process of disabling the North's main nuclear facilities. North Korea has agreed to disable its Yongbyon nuclear complex and declare all of its programs before the end of this year.
AFGHAN VIOLENCE: Authorities in southern Afghanistan say Afghan and NATO-led forces have killed about 20 Taliban fighters during an operation near the city of Kandahar. The chief of police in Kandahar province said another 25 Taliban fighters were wounded in the fighting around two villages (in Arghandab district) on Monday and Tuesday. He said Afghan and foreign troops did not suffer any casualties. The official said the military operation was launched after Taliban fighters captured several checkpoints in the area, following the death of a local pro-government tribal leader (Mullah Naqibullah) who had managed to keep the militants out of his district.
PAKISTAN SECURITY: A public opinion poll in Pakistan indicates most people do not support President Pervez Musharraf's military operations against al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in the country's tribal areas near the Afghan border. The Washington-based WorldPublicOpinion.Org poll shows 80 percent of respondents strongly oppose allowing U.S. or other foreign forces into tribal areas to pursue al-Qaida militants. Only 44 percent of Pakistanis living in urban areas support sending army troops to the border regions to capture al-Qaida fighters.
SPAIN - BOMBING VERDICT: A Spanish court has found three of 28 defendants in the 2004 Madrid train bombings guilty of murder and other charges. Judge Javier Gomez Bermudez was reading the verdicts today in a hushed courtroom surrounded by heavy security. The 28 defendants are mostly Moroccans and Spaniards. They faced several charges, including plotting the bombings and providing the explosives. All 28 pleaded not guilty. Spanish investigators say the attacks were inspired by al-Qaida. Ten bombs exploded on four Madrid commuter trains on March 11th, 2004, three days before a general election that Spain's center-right government appeared set to win.
RUSSIA - BLAST: A bomb blast on a bus in the central Russian city of Togliatti has killed at least eight people and wounded 56 others. Russian officials are treating today's explosion as a possible terrorist act. It happened in the center of the city as people were going to work. Most of the wounded were college students. Authorities are trying to determine whether the bomb was carried by a passenger or planted somewhere inside or underneath the bus. Russian President Vladimir Putin has sent a top federal investigator from Moscow to help with the inquiry. Togliatti is home to Russia's biggest carmaker, AvtoVAZ.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says unilateral sanctions against Iran are "not helpful" in efforts to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Lavrov, who met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran Tuesday, was referring to recently announced U.S. measures to pressure Iran to abandon its sensitive nuclear activities. Russian news agencies (Itar-Tass and Interfax) quoted Lavrov as saying unilateral economic sanctions will not help "the continued collective effort" to solve the problem.
THAILAND - BRITAIN: Thai police have arrested a British man on suspicion of distributing child pornography on the Internet. Authorities said today that they were also investigating whether Paul Cornelius Jones was involved in abusing children. Police said the 39-year-old has lived for at least six years in Bangkok, where he taught English. Thai police said they arrested Jones after receiving information from international police. Earlier this month, Thai authorities arrested a Canadian man suspected of sexually abusing young boys. So far, two boys in Thailand have come forward to testify against Christopher Paul Neil.
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