PAKISTAN: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to file nomination papers in Pakistan today (Monday) so he can take part in general elections set for early January. Mr. Sharif flew into (the eastern city of) Lahore Sunday from Saudi Arabia, where he spent the past seven years in exile. He is the latest opposition figure to return to Pakistan ahead of today's registration deadline for election candidates. Speaking to a large and enthusiastic crowd at the airport, Mr. Sharif said he returned home to save the country, and he denounced the state of emergency decreed by President Pervez Musharraf as an obstacle to free elections. Mr. Sharif said democracy must be restored, and he called for reinstatement of Pakistan's deposed Supreme Court justices.
MIDEAST CONFERENCE: Mideast Conference: President Bush is meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Washington today (Monday) for talks ahead of Tuesday's Mideast peace conference. Mr. Bush, first will meet separately with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the White House. The three men will will meet jointly later in the day. This evening (7 p.m. EST), Mr. Bush will address participants in Tuesday's peace conference during a dinner Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is hosting at the State Department. The U.S. national security adviser says Tuesday's conference in Annapolis, Maryland will provide a fairly open forum for conversation, but he stresses that it will not involve formal negotiations.
INDONESIA QUAKE: Two strong earthquakes jolted Indonesia Sunday and early Monday, killing three people and injuring at least 45 others. The first quake, a magnitude six-point-one temblor, struck late Sunday off the coast of Sumatra island at a depth of 20 kilometers. Just after midnight (, early Monday), a second earthquake hit 45 kilometers west of Raba, a town on Sumbawa island, at a depth of 30 kilometers. The U.S. Geological Survey measured the quake at preliminary magnitude of six-point-four.
AUSTRALAI POL: Australia's newly elected prime minister, Kevin Rudd, got straight to work today (Monday), holding meetings with his deputy (Julia Gillard) to begin putting together the Labor Party's first government in 11 years. Mr. Rudd is expected later this week to select his ministerial team, which would be sworn in within days. Mr. Rudd has already said he plans to sign the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, and confirmed today that he will overturn defeated Prime Minister John Howard's opposition to issuing an apology to Aboriginal Australian's. Mr. Rudd says he will apologize on behalf of all Australians for past government policies that have made the continent's original inhabitants its most impoverished minority. He has also promised to improve health care and education, turning schools into "digital" classrooms with computers for every student.
CHINA - FRANCE: China signed two major business deals today (Monday) worth nearly 30 billion dollars, as French President Nicolas Sarkozy makes his first state visit to the country. France's state-owned nuclear energy group, Areva, signed a deal to provide China with two nuclear reactors and more than a decade of fuel - an agreement worth nearly 12 billion dollars. European aircraft maker Airbus also signed contracts today to sell China 160 jets - a deal worth about 15 billion dollars. The signing of the hefty contracts came as Mr. Sarkozy met today with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing. The two discussed a wide range of issues including the political deadlock in neighboring Burma, improving China's human rights record and cleaning up the environment.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: China's Foreign Ministry says a team of representatives from the six- party nuclear-talks will visit North Korea's main nuclear complex this week to assess nuclear disablement efforts. A Foreign Ministry spokesman (Qin Gang) told reporters today (Monday) in Beijing the joint team would travel to Yongbyon Tuesday for a three-day visit meant to get on-the-ground (first-hand) understanding of the disablement progress at facilities there. China did not say who would be on the team. North Korea has 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.
BURMA - INDIA PROTEST: Nearly one thousand Buddhist monks, nuns and students marched against Burma's military leadership today (Monday) in eastern India, urging fellow worshippers around the world to unite against the Burmese leaders. Witnesses say the monks and nuns (wearing yellow robes) sang religious hymns as they marched through the Buddhist holy town of Bodh Gaya in the northeastern Indian state of Gihar.
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