PAKISTAN: Pakistani officials say President Pervez Musharraf has told U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte that emergency rule is needed to hold the country's parliamentary elections in a peaceful atmosphere. Negroponte, the most senior U.S. official to visit Pakistan since emergency rule began two weeks ago, held more than two hours of talks with General Musharraf in Islamabad today (Saturday). There has been no immediate comment about the meeting from U.S. officials. Negroponte was expected to press General Musharraf to lift emergency rule and guarantee democratic elections expected by early January.
BANGLADESH STORM: Military helicopters and ships have joined
rescue and relief operations in southern Bangladesh, which was battered by a powerful cyclone late Thursday. Local media report at least 11-hundred people were killed. The death toll is expected to rise once officials have access to some of the worst hit coastal districts. The army deployed helicopters today (Saturday) to deliver food, medicine and drinking water to survivors in remote areas, while navy ships are clearing coastal rivers clogged by sunken vessels to restore navigation for the delivery of supplies.
AFGHAN VIOLENCE: The U.S. military in Afghanistan says U.S.-led coalition forces have killed 23 Taliban fighters and detained 11 suspects during an operation in southern Helmand province. In a statement issued today (Saturday), the military said the fighting erupted while coalition troops conducted a weapons search in the Garmser district, which lies along a route for smuggling weapons from Pakistan.
IRAQ: The U.S. military says coalition forces killed six suspects and detained 10 during raids targeting al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists today (Saturday). A statement said the operations were carried out in Baghdad and the cities of Samara and Kirkuk to the north. It said three of the suspects killed were found wearing suicide vests. On Friday, U.S. forces raided areas south of Baghdad to hunt for militants believed to be linked to the kidnapping of two American soldiers. The military said helicopters dropped 600 soldiers into the villages of Owesap and Betra, while warplanes dropped two bombs to block possible escape routes. Some 150 Iraqi soldiers also took part in the operation.
BURMA POL: Burma's military leader says he is committed to going
ahead with the country's "road map" to democracy. The official "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper today (Saturday) quoted Senior General Than Shwe as saying the process of building a new nation is a process involving the entire nation. The paper said that in a speech Friday, the general said the road map was the only means to a smooth transition towards a new state. Under the ruling generals' road map, Burma will adopt a constitution in a referendum that would eventually lead to free elections.
US - JAPAN - BURMA: The leaders of the United States and Japan have condemned the crackdown by Burma's military government on pro-democracy demonstrations in September. President Bush and Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda made remarks Friday at the White House after holding talks. The president said he and Mr. Fukuda are calling on the Burmese military government to release pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all other political prisoners. Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest.
ASEAN - BURMA: The U.S. Senate has voted unanimously on a resolution urging Southeast Asian leaders to suspend Burma from their regional group, following the country's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations. The resolution adopted Friday calls on the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, to consider disciplinary measures, including suspension, until Burma's military government demonstrates an "improved respect for and commitment to human rights."
Officials from ASEAN member nations will begin arriving in Singapore Saturday for their annual summit. ASEAN leaders are divided on how to approach Burma and the question of how members should deal with what many believe is a rising threat to regional security. Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia want to maintain the group's traditional approach of constructive engagement. Others, such as Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, are leaning towards more decisive action.
NZ - NOKOR NUCLEAR: New Zealand's foreign minister says North Korean leaders have told him they are committed to scrapping their nuclear programs, but that other nations must keep their commitments as well. Speaking in Beijing today (Saturday) after a visit to Pyongyang, Foreign Minister Winston Peters said North Korean leaders told him cooperation is contingent on all six-party participants fulfilling their obligations. Under the six-nation agreement, North Korea promised to disable its nuclear facilities and declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of this year. In return, Pyongyang was promised energy assistance and political concessions.
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