PAKISTAN: Pakistan's former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has announced plans for a massive rally near the capital, Islamabad, to protest emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf Saturday. Ms. Bhutto today urged her supporters to defy a ban on public gatherings issued by President Musharraf, and attend the rally Friday in the city of Rawalpindi. City officials insist they will not allow the gathering to take place. In the meantime, Ms. Bhutto is meeting with opposition party leaders in Islamabad today to discuss ways to overturn the emergency rule.
US - PAKISTAN: The United States says it is examining possible cuts in financial assistance to Islamabad following Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's imposition of emergency rule Saturday. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Tuesday an interagency team of U.S. officials is reviewing the aid program, a prospect raised by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week. But McCormack warned not to expect the government to take a step that might make the United States less safe or diminish its capabilities to fight terror.
AFGHAN - VIOLENCE: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has declared three days of national mourning for 41 people killed in a suicide bombing Tuesday in northern Afghanistan. Mr. Karzai told a news conference in Kabul today six members of parliament were among those killed in northern Baghlan province. At least 81 people were wounded, and Mr. Karzai warned the death toll could rise. Among the dead were children who had lined up to greet a visiting delegation of Afghan lawmakers. The suicide attack is the country's deadliest since the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
BURMA: Burma's military government has rejected a U.N. special envoy's call for U.N.-brokered talks with opposition groups and says it refuses to bow to external pressure. State-media say a Burmese official told visiting U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Tuesday that holding the meeting was impossible. The official also criticized Gambari's earlier visit to Burma, saying it had failed to produce any results because it was followed by more sanctions from the United States (Australia and the European Union) as well as condemnation from the United Nations.
LAOS - NOKOR: North Korea's Prime Minister Kim Yong Il has met with officials in Laos as part of a regional tour to boost trade with countries in Southeast Asia. Mr. Kim arrived in the Lao capital of Vientiane Sunday, and signed an agreement to boost cultural and information exchanges during his stay. In Laos, he paid a courtesy call on Lao President Choummali Saignason and held talks with the country's Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh. (China's official Xinhua news agency quotes) Lao Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh said that North Korea and Laos should step up their cooperation in both regional and international affairs.
US - KOREAS - MILITARY: Top defense officials from South Korea and the United States say North Korea remains a serious military threat, despite its recent efforts to begin disabling its main nuclear weapons-making facilities. At a news conference today in Seoul, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo noted the North's efforts this week to begin disabling its Yongbyon nuclear complex, but stressed that Pyongyang still has a long way to go. The two were speaking after wrapping up an annual security meeting.
THAILAND - POL: Candidates in Thailand began registering today to compete in the country's upcoming general elections, more than one year after a bloodless coup removed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra from office. Eighteen parties have already registered candidates to compete in the race for some 480 seats in the Thai House of Representatives. Political analysts say that with so many parties competing, it is unlikely any single group will win a majority. They warn this could lead to a weak and unstable coalition government. A military coup removed Mr. Thaksin from office in September of last year.
SCIENCE - NEW PLANET: Scientists say they have discovered a new planet orbiting a distant star. Astronomers in California announced Tuesday they have confirmed the new planet is orbiting the sun-like star known as 55 Cancri (in the constellation Cancer). The scientists say the discovery marks the first time as many as five planets have been found orbiting a solar system outside our own. Astronomers estimate the new planet is about 45 times more massive than Earth and has an orbit of 260 days. It is in what experts call the "habitable zone," meaning temperatures on the planet could support life and the presence of water is possible.
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