AFGHAN VIOLENCE: The U.S. military in Afghanistan says several Taliban militants have been killed in air strikes in the southern town of Musa Qala, as NATO-led ground troops began an offensive to take the key town back from Taliban control . In a statement today, the military said initial information indicates a senior Taliban commander was among those killed. The commander is believed to have been involved in several attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in the region. Taliban militants overran Musa Qala in February, months after British troops withdrew and handed over security responsibilities to local elders.
IRAQ: Iraqi police say a suicide car bomb has exploded in the northern city of Baiji, killing at least seven people and wounding 13 others. Police say several homes were damaged in the blast today in a residential area of the city located about 250-kilometers north of Baghdad. Baiji has the country's largest oil refinery and is also a key point for crude oil being exported out of Iraq. On Friday, two separate bombings in the volatile Diyala province - also north of Baghdad - killed 26 people and wounded about 30 others. One of the attacks was carried out by a female suicide bomber.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates says Iran remains a threat to the Middle East and to the United States despite a new U.S. Intelligence report that Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003. In a speech to a security conference in Bahrain today, Gates said the countries in the Persian Gulf must work together to demand that Iran clear all ambiguities about its past nuclear activities and openly pledge not to develop nuclear weapons in the future. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington and other world powers have agreed to keep up pressure on Iran for refusing to stop enriching uranium -- a process that can be used in developing nuclear weapons.
SOKOR - TANKER: South Korean officials say the country's worst-ever oil spill began washing onto the southwest coastline today, polluting beaches and threatening valuable fish farms. The coast guard says more than 100 naval and coast guard vessels and six helicopters have been sent to the site of the accident to help contain the spill. Heavy winds and high seas hampered cleanup efforts Friday, but officials say the sea is calmer today. More than 10 thousand tons of crude oil gushed into the Yellow Sea Friday after a barge struck a Hong Kong-registered supertanker anchored five kilometers off the coast of the port of Mallipo.
PAKISTAN - VILOENCE: Pakistani authorities say three supporters of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto were killed today, when unidentified gunmen attacked her party's office in southwestern Baluchistan province. The incident took place in a remote town (Naseerabad), about 250-kilometers from Quetta -- the provincial capital. Local police said they had no immediate information about a possible motive for the attack, or who might be behind it. Tribal rivalries often trigger violence in Baluchistan -- mostly in rural areas. Violence is also common in the run-up to and during elections in the country.
US - BURMA - CHILDREN: The United States says it is deeply concerned about reports of continuing recruitment and use of child soldiers in Burma. The acting U.S. representative to the United Nations, Grover Joseph Rees, cited reports from U.N. and aid officials that say armed groups in Burma recruit children as young as 12 years old to serve as soldiers. He told a U.N. Security Council working group Thursday that Burma's government has also failed to provide access to U.N. officials investigating the matter. He called on Burma's government and other armed groups in the country to immediately end all unlawful child recruitment and allow U.N. officials to have access to military barracks and recruiting stations.
BURMA - NORTH KOREA: Burmese state media say North Korea's first ambassador to Burma has taken up his post after a diplomatic break of 24 years between the two countries. Burma's "New Light of Myanmar" says ties were restored Friday when North Korean Ambassador Kim Sok Chol presented his credentials to Senior General Than Shwe in the administrative capital, Naypyidaw. The two countries severed ties in 1983 after North Korean agents carried out a bombing in Rangoon that killed more than 20 people during a visit by South Korean President Chun Doo-hwan.
VIET - BANK: The Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam is set to offer shares on the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange in the next few months. The company is also known as Vietcombank and would be the first of Vietnam's state-owned banks sell shares in itself. The Bloomberg financial news service says selling a portion of the company's shares to investors is intended to raise more than 600 million dollars. This is another step in the bank reform in Vietnam that has been going on since the early 1990s. Vietcombank may also sell its shares on foreign stock exchanges in the future.
CLOSER - PEARL HARBOR: About two-thousand people gathered at the U.S. Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Friday to remember the victims of the 1941 Japanese attack on the base that killed some 24-hundred people and led the United States to enter World War Two. Many were there to witness the opening of a new monument to the U.S.S. Oklahoma, until now the only battleship in the attack without its own memorial. More than 400 men who died on the ship are each represented with a white marble column on Ford Island, in the middle of the harbor.
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