Iraqi police say three car bomb explosions in the mainly Shi'ite southern city of Amarah have killed at least 26 people and wounded about 100 more. Police say the blasts occurred within minutes of each other. They say the explosives-laden vehicles were placed in a garage, a market and near a local police station. Amarah is the capital of Maysan province, which borders Iran. Violence has been on rise in the region since the British military handed over security responsibilities of the province to Iraqi authorities about eight months ago ( -- in April).
LEBANON: A senior Lebanese army officer and three other people have been killed in an explosion in a Christian town on the outskirts of Beirut. A military statement said Brigadier General Francois al-Hajj, head of military operations, and a number of his bodyguards were killed in this (Wednesday) morning's blast in Baabda. More than 10 others were wounded. The military did not say what caused the explosion, which set several vehicles on fire and also damaged several nearby buildings. General Hajj played a leading role in the army offensive against al-Qaida-inspired militants at a Palestinian refugee camp (Nahr al-Bared) earlier this year. He has been mentioned as a possible successor to army General Michel Suleiman, who is poised to be elected president.
ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: Israeli and Palestinian officials have begun their formal peace talks after a seven-year break. The two sides met today (Wednesday) in Jerusalem, amid a new outbreak of violence in the Gaza Strip. Israeli and Palestinian leaders have pledged to negotiate with the goal of reaching a two-state settlement by the end of next year. The commitments were made at last month's U.S.-sponsored Middle East peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland. In the Gaza Strip, six Palestinian militants were killed Tuesday, as Israel carried out what local sources say is the largest military offensive in the Palestinian territory in months.
ALGERIA-BLAST: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has sent top aides to investigate Tuesday's bombing in the Algerian capital that killed scores of people, including at least 11 U.N. staff members. In a statement (issued in Bali, Indonesia, where he is currently traveling), Mr. Ban strongly condemned the two bombings outside U.N. offices and a government building in Algiers, saying words cannot express his "sense of shock, outrage and anger" at the terrorist attack.
BALI-CLIMATE CONFERENCE: Environment ministers from around the world have joined a U.N.-led climate conference in Indonesia to try to set guidelines for combatting global warming beyond 2012. Speaking at the opening of high-level talks today (Wednesday) in Bali, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the ministers to set a deadline of 2009 for negotiating a new climate change treaty. Mr. Ban said future generations are depending on them to reach a deal and that now is the time to act. He told the ministers from more than 120 countries that the threat of global warming is the "moral challenge" of their generation.
Audio in Lao.