IRAN - NUCLEAR: A new U.S. intelligence report says Iran halted a secret program to develop nuclear weapons four years ago, but has the capability to start it again. The report says Tehran is less determined to produce nuclear weapons than previously believed. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the latest National Intelligence Estimate suggests Iran halted its nuclear weapons development program in the second half of 2003. But Hadley says Iran continues to enrich uranium, which he says could be used to develop a nuclear weapon. The Bush administration has been urging world powers to intensify pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program.
IRAQ: Iraq has reopened an airport in the northern city of Mosul to commercial flights for the first time in 14 years. The U.S. military said today the inaugural Iraqi Airways flight left Mosul Sunday, carrying 152 pilgrims to Baghdad for an onward connection to Saudi Arabia. The airport was first opened to commercial flights in 1992, but was closed the following year when the U.S. military imposed a no-fly zone over Mosul. The U.S. government contributed three-million dollars to renovate the airport's passenger terminal.
CLIMATE CONFERENCE: Representatives from some of the world's poorest nations are appealing for help at a U.N.-sponsored conference in Bali to deal with the impact of extreme weather scientists say is caused by global warming. Officials and advocates of a fund to help poor countries adapt to the impact of climate change say donations from rich countries have been tiny compared to the need. So far, more than 60 million dollars have been raised to help poor countries. But, the anti-poverty group Oxfam says that for all developing countries to adapt to climate change some 50 billion dollars will be needed each year.
ASIA - WATER: A two-day summit has opened in Japan to address water shortages, natural disasters and other water-related issues affecting the Asia-Pacific region. At Monday's opening ceremony, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said the region faces a serious situation given the concentration of water-related problems. Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito also addressed the meeting, which is being held in the hot spring resort city of Beppu. Officials and environmental experts will discuss how to coordinate efforts to deal with shrinking water resources and poor sanitation.
US - CHINA - IMPORTS: The United States says it expects to sign two agreements with China next week to ensure that food, animal feed, drugs and medical devices imported from China meet U.S. safety standards. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said Monday in remarks to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington that he will travel to China next week in the hope of signing the deals. President Bush appointed Leavitt in July to head a task force to address concern over food and other imports after a series of recalls involving Chinese products.
PHILIPPINES - KILLINGS: A human rights group in the Philippines says pressure from the public and international community has reduced the number of extra-judicial killings this year. Karapatan released a year-end report Monday documenting the deaths of 68 mostly left-wing activists at the hands of government security forces. The group says the total number of extra-judicial killings since President Gloria Arroyo took power in 2001 has reached 887. Karapatan's secretary general Marie Hilao Enriquez praised efforts by the Supreme Court to end the killings, but credited the drop in killings mostly to pressure from the United Nations, the United States and other foreign governments.
INDONESIA - TERROR: An Indonesia court has sentenced six Islamic militants to up to 19 years in prison for terrorist attacks in eastern Indonesia, including the beheadings of three Christian schoolgirls. A 19-year sentence was given to Abdul Muis, convicted of the 2006 killing of Christian minister and a bomb attack on a market in central Sulawesi province. The South Jakarta District Court also handed down sentences ranging from 10 to 19 years to five others convicted of bomb-making and plotting and carrying out attacks against Christians.
BURMA: Burma's state-controlled media reports the country's military government has granted amnesty to more than eight thousand prisoners as a gesture to the United Nations and to celebrate progress on its long-awaited constitution. The "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper reported today the eight-thousand-585 prisoners were released between mid November and December to mark the drafting of a new constitution, which was completed in September. The newspaper said 33 Thai prisoners were released to commemorate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's 80th birthday, which is being celebrated later this week.
RUSSIA ELECTIONS: Europe has joined the United States in urging Russia to probe numerous complaints of undemocratic practices in the landslide elections victory of President Vladimir Putin's political party. Mr. Putin's United Russia party has won 64 percent of Sunday's parliamentary vote. The Communist Party was running a distant second with 12 percent, while two pro-Kremlin parties held seven and eight percent (respectively) - enough to win seats in the State Duma. The president of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the elections took place in an atmosphere of harassment and intimidation of the opposition.
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