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Pakistani Supreme Court Dismisses Final Challenge to Musharraf Re-election


PAKISTAN: Pakistan's Supreme Court has dismissed a final challenge to President Pervez Musharraf's re-election victory, clearing the way for him to rule as a civilian president. The president's hand-picked Supreme Court dismissed today the sixth legal challenge to his re-election. General Musharraf has repeatedly promised to abandon his post as army chief as soon as the Supreme Court approves his October re-election victory. Pakistan's attorney general (Malik Qayyum) says General Musharraf could step down as head of the military as early as Saturday.

ASEAN: Asian leaders and the European Union are urging Burma's military-ruled government to speed up democratic reforms. The declaration from EU and Asian leaders attending the annual East Asia Summit (ASEAN plus six) calls for the release of political detainees, including opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. It also calls for the lifting of restrictions on political parties and for more dialogue. Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings this week in Singapore have largely been overshadowed by Burma and its bloody September crackdown of pro-democracy and anti-government protesters.

BURMA: The United Nations human rights expert for Burma has urged the international community to keep up pressure on Burmese military rulers toward reform. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said after his recent trip to Burma that a good opportunity for a real transition in the country might be lost, if the world's pressure weakens. He said the international community must talk less and act more. Pinheiro confirmed that Burmese authorities allowed him to meet privately with five prisoners, but declined to give details. He is next due to deliver a comprehensive report on his findings to the U.N. Human rights commission in December.

THAI VIOLENCE: Officials in southern Thailand say unidentified gunmen shot and killed four Buddhist government officials Wednesday in a roadside attack. Authorities say the victims were riding in a car when four men on two motorbikes opened fire. Officials say a bomb placed in the car after the shooting exploded while police were investigating. At least one officer was injured. The attack occurred in the province of Pattani, one of the few Muslim majority provinces in predominantly Buddhist Thailand.

CHINA - US WARSHIPS: China has reversed a decision to bar a flotilla of U.S. warships from docking in Hong Kong and now says it has approved the four-day visit on "humanitarian grounds." Speaking at a regular media briefing today, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said China would allow the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and several other vessels to dock in Hong Kong during the American holiday of Thanksgiving. But, he did not give any explanation for China's about face. Hundreds of relatives of American sailors had flown to Hong Kong, and would have been unable to meet with their family members if China had not reversed its decision.

KOREAS TRAINS: North and South Korea have agreed to begin running a daily cargo train service across their heavily fortified border starting next month. South Korea's Unification Minister Lee Jae-joung told reporters today that the train will begin service on December 11th and run between the North's city of Bongdong and the South Korean city of Munsan. Earlier this month, North and South Korea agreed to establish the cargo train link. Lee said the main goal of the new train service is to supply an industrial zone in the North Korean city of Kaesong, which lies along the 20-kilometer-long route.

IRAN - NUCLEAR: The International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-member board begins a two-day meeting in Vienna today to discuss Iran's nuclear ambitions. Members specifically will consider the IAEA's report last week that credits Iran with substantial progress in revealing details about its nuclear program. But, the report also says Tehran continues to defy U.N. Security Council demands to stop uranium enrichment, a process that can be used to make nuclear weapons. On Wednesday, Iranian media reports quoted officials as saying Iran's chief nuclear negotiator and a top European Union official will meet November 30th in London to discuss Tehran's nuclear program.

US THANKSGIVING DAY: Millions of Americans are off work today to celebrate the nation's annual Thanksgiving Day holiday. Many Americans travel hundreds -- even thousands -- of kilometers to enjoy the day with a large gathering of family and friends, and a huge feast with turkey as the main dish. They also watch traditional, nationally televised holiday events, including a parade in New York City sponsored by Macy's department store, and National Football League games. Although there is a record of earlier Thanksgiving celebrations, the tradition is often traced back to 1621.

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