BALI CLIMATE CONFERENCE: Germany's environmental minister says a U.S.-European standoff over future greenhouse gas emission cuts is headed for a compromise at U.N.-sponsored talks on climate change in Bali. Sigmar Gabriel says "the climate in the climate conference is good" today, the last scheduled day for talks on the Indonesian resort island. The European Union wants rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions between 25 to 40 percent by 2020 -- a move strongly opposed by Washington. But the host nation has drafted a compromise dropping the E.U.'s demand, while reaffirming that emissions should be reduced at least by half by 2050.
KOREAS - DEFENSE: High-level talks between North and South Korean military officials ended today with no accord on the creation of a joint fishing area along their disputed sea border. The two sides held three days of intense talks at the border village of Panmunjom. South Korea wants the fishing area to straddle the current border (called the Northern Limit Line) drawn unilaterally by the United Nations at the end Korean War in 1953. North Korea wants the zone located further south of the border, which it does not recognize. The talks turned ugly Thursday when military officials from both sides engaged in a brief shoving match, after a North Korean officer tried to show a map detailing Pyongyang's proposal for the zone.
INDONESIA - BIRD FLU: Indonesia's health ministry says another Indonesian man has died of bird flu, raising the country's death toll from the virus to 93. The latest victim is a 47-year-old from the town of Tangerang, located near the capital of Jakarta. He first began showing signs of illness earlier this month, and was admitted to a hospital in Jakarta, where he died Thursday night. A total of 115 people in Indonesia have been infected with the virulent strain of bird flu, making it the worst affected country since the outbreak began in 2003. The World Health Organization says more than 200 people have died of bird flu worldwide.
SOLOMON - POL: Opposition lawmakers on the South Pacific island nation of the Solomon Islands say they will hold elections for a new prime minister next week. The elections were announced today, one day after Manasseh Sogavare narrowly lost a no-confidence vote in parliament. Mr. Sogavare had been in power since April 2006. His term in office was marred by a number of ongoing disputes with Australia, including his appointment of Julian Moti as attorney general. Moti faces child sex charges in Australia. The opposition says it will restore relations with Australia and put Moti on a plane Canberra if they take back control of the government.
NATO - AFGHANISTAN: Representatives from countries with troops in Afghanistan are entering their second day of talks today to discuss what to do about a growing Taliban insurgency and U.S. calls for more NATO troops. British Defense Secretary Des Browne - host of the meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland - says military power can only be part of the solution. He also said he saw a "tangible" improvement in Afghanistan during his visit there this week. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is also at the meeting. Earlier this week, Gates briefed members of the U.S. Congress on the situation in Afghanistan, saying there are serious shortfalls in equipment and training to help the Afghan police and army fight militants.
LEBANON: Lebanon's feuding political leaders joined in today's funeral of Brigadier General Fracois al-Hajj, who was killed in a car bombing on the outskirts of Beirut two days ago. Army honor guards accompanied the flag-draped coffin of General Hajj to a Maronite Christian church in Beirut for the official funeral service. Schools, banks and public offices across Lebanon were closed for a day of mourning. Speaking at the funeral service, the Army's chief of staff (Major General Shawki Masri) pledged the army would "not rest until the murderers are apprehended." He also urged the government and the opposition to end a political deadlock over the election of a new president.
PALESTINIANS - VIOLENCE: Palestinian officials say a senior adviser to the government of President Mahmoud Abbas has been abducted by unidentified gunmen in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Fatah officials say gunmen took Omar al-Ghoul from his family home in Gaza early this morning, only hours after he arrived there from the West Bank. Ghoul is an adviser to Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the West Bank-based Palestinian government, which was set up after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June. No one has claimed responsibility for the abduction. Separately, Palestinian medical officials say two people were killed and 35 others wounded when an explosion hit a funeral procession in Gaza.
US - CIA: U.S. lawmakers have asked to hear testimony by the senior CIA official who ordered the destruction of videotapes showing agents' intense interrogation of terrorist suspects. Members of the House Intelligence Committee summoned Jose Rodriguez to appear at a hearing on Tuesday (12/18). Rodriguez formerly was head of the Central Intelligence Agency's clandestine services, and he has been identified as the person who decided to destroy the controversial videotapes two years ago. Critics contend the recordings, showing the interrogation in 2002 of two senior al-Qaida operatives, would have contained evidence of illegal torture.
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