PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is expected to appoint a caretaker government later today, while opposition parties are trying to form a united front against him. Today marks the end of the current parliament's term and the caretaker administration will organize national elections that General Musharraf has promised to hold by January ninth. Opposition parties say a free and fair vote can not be held unless the president quickly lifts the emergency he declared nearly two weeks ago.
IRAQ: Iraqi security officials say a suicide bombing apparently targeting a senior Kurdish police officer has killed at least six people and wounded 20 others in the northern city of Kirkuk. Officials say the bomber rammed his explosives-filled vehicle into the convoy carrying the police officer (Brigadier Khattab Omar) early today. They say the Kurdish officer survived with injuries. Separately, the U.S. military said that U.S. forces backed by aircraft killed 25 suspected insurgents in operations targeting al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists (in the Tarmiyah region) near Baghdad.
US WAR FUNDING: The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has approved a funding measure for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that requires President Bush to start bringing home troops from Iraq in coming weeks. The 50-billion dollar short-term funding measure narrowly passed in a late-night session Wednesday by a vote of 218 to 203. It sets a goal of pulling most combat forces out of Iraq by December 15th, 2008. It restricts the funding to simply protecting U.S. personnel, supporting counter-terrorism efforts, and providing limited training and support for Iraqi security forces.
KOREAS - PEACE TALKS: North and South Korea have agreed to establish their first regular cargo train service before the end of this year. An agreement to establish the service was reached today, while North and South Korea's prime ministers held talks in Seoul. The trains will cross the heavily armed border that divides the Korean peninsula and link up the North's Kaesong industrial complex with industries in the South. North Korean Prime Minister Kim Yong Il and his South Korean counterpart, Han Duck-soo, began three days of talks Wednesday, the first such meeting in 15 years.
BURMA: U.N. human rights envoy Paulo Sergio Pinheiro has visited Burma's notorious Insein Prison today in an effort to talk with political detainees before wrapping up his first visit to the country in four years. It was not immediately clear whether he was able to meet with any inmates. Pinheiro was allowed to visit the same facility on Monday, but was only permitted to meet with prison officials. U.N. officials later said they have been assured that Pinheiro would be able to meet with political detainees. Burma arrested several more activists this week while Pinheiro was in the country, openly challenging international calls for the release of prisoners and a halt to detentions.
JAPAN - DALAI LAMA: Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrived in Japan today for a week-long visit that will include a public speech, but he is barred from any political activity. During his stay, the Dalai Lama will visit the ancient Shinto shrine of Ise in western Japan and deliver a speech at a religious forum in Yokohama, which is near Tokyo. Japanese officials allowed the Dalai Lama to visit on condition that he not participate in any political activities, a move to avoid upsetting China. The Dalai Lama's recent visits to Germany, Canada and the United States have angered officials in China.
SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan military says at least 15 Tamil Tiger rebels and one soldier have been killed during fighting in the northern Vavuniya district. Officials say another 24 rebels and five soldiers were wounded in Wednesday's battles along the frontline between government-controlled and rebel-held territory. The military says government troops destroyed rebel bunkers in the area. The reports could not be independently verified. There was no immediate comment from the rebel group, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. Fighting in northern Sri Lanka has escalated in recent months.
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