PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has stepped down as the country's army chief, ending eight years of military rule. He is to be sworn in as a civilian president on Thursday for a second five-year term. President Musharraf formally relinquished his military post at a ceremony at army headquarters in Rawalpindi today, and handed over command to his designated successor, General Ashfaq Kayani. Since seizing power in a 1999 coup, President Musharraf had served as the country's leader while retaining his army chief post.
MIDEAST CONFERENCE: President Bush meets with President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the White House today, to inaugurate the first direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years. Mr. Bush will have separate talks with both leaders before a rare three-way meeting. The talks are a follow up to to Tuesday's Middle East conference in Annapolis, Maryland, where Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to immediately restart negotiations for a two-state solution of the conflict, and to make every effort to conclude an agreement before the end of 2008.
AFGHAN - VIOLENCE: Afghan officials say at least 12 civilian construction workers have been killed in airstrikes by U.S.-led coalition forces in eastern Afghanistan. The governor of eastern Nuristan province, Tamin Nuristani, says the workers were sleeping in tents when the attack happened earlier this week. He says U.S. military officials launched the airstrikes after receiving information that Taliban insurgents were in the the area. Coalition officials have not confirmed that any airstrikes took place, but say they are looking into the incident. The construction workers were building a road in the remote region.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lankan officials say a suspected Tamil Tiger suicide bomber has blown herself up near the office of a government minister in Colombo, killing at least one person and wounding two others. Police say the attack took place this morning outside the office of the social welfare minister (Douglas Devananda), who is a leader of an ethnic Tamil political party (the Eelam People's Democratic party) that is viewed as a rival to the rebel group (the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam). Officials say the minister, who was the apparent target of the attack, was not hurt.
JAPAN - IRAQ MISSION: Japanese opposition lawmakers have voted to halt the country's air force transport mission in Iraq, a move that is likely to intensify a standoff with the government over peacekeeping missions overseas. The legislation was passed today with little trouble in the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament. But, it is likely to be voted down after it moves on to the more powerful lower house, which is controlled by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. Since winning control of the upper house of parliament in July, the Democratic Party of Japan has been challenging major policies of the ruling party.
JAPAN - POLITICS: Prosecutors in Japan have arrested a former Japanese vice defense minister on allegations that he accepted bribes from a major defense contractor. In a statement, prosecutors said Takemasa Moriya was arrested today after being questioned for several hours. Prosecutors also raided Moriya's home and arrested his wife. Moriya has admitted in parliament that he wrongly accepted golf rounds and gifts from a defense contractor (Yamada Corp). But, he denies that he offered any favors to the contractor in return.
KOREAS - DEFENSE: Defense ministers from North and South Korea are meeting for a second day of talks in the North Korean capital. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo and his counterpart Kim Il Chol differed during Tuesday's talks over how to implement an agreement to establish a joint fishing zone in the West Sea. North and South Korea agreed to the fishing zone during the landmark talks between the presidents last month in Pyongyang. The initiative is designed to reduce tensions along a disputed sea border where the countries' navies clashed in 1999 and 2002.
CHINA - VIETNAM: Beijing has dismissed Vietnamese protests about a Chinese naval exercises near a disputed archipelago as "groundless." Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Tuesday that China's sovereignty to the islands in the South China Sea is indisputable. He said the exercises were routine. On Saturday, Vietnam (Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Dung) condemned the November 16th to 23rd exercises as a violation of Vietnamese sovereignty. Vietnam calls the group of small islands and reefs the Paracels Islands, while China calls them the Xisha Islands.
FRANCE RIOT: French President Nicolas Sarkozy says rioters who shot at police officers will be brought to justice. The French president made his remarks today after visiting a critically wounded police officer in a hospital outside Paris. He is due to meet with his ministers later today, following three consecutive nights of youth rioting in a northern Paris suburb Rioters burned several cars in Villiers-le-Bel Tuesday night, where the violence started late Sunday, following deaths of two young people whose motorbike collided with a police car.
VENEZUELA - CONSTITUTION: Demonstrations for and against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's proposed constitutional changes have intensified ahead of Sunday's referendum. President Chavez on Tuesday vowed that his charter will win. The changes would allow him to rule Venezuela for as long as he can win elections. The proposals include giving authorities sweeping powers if a national emergency is declared, such as detention without charges and controls on the news media. The new constitution would also enable the Mr. Chavez to turn Venezuela into a socialist state modeled after Fidel Castro's Cuba.
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