BALI CLIMATE CONF.: Delegates at the U.N.-sponsored climate change conference in Bali have agreed on a plan to negotiate a new anti-global warming treaty by 2009. The deal was announced today after two weeks of intense talks among 190 participating nations that were extended by an extra day. The agreement came after a personal appeal by U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-moon. A major sticking point was a demand by the European Union for rich nations to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 25 to 40 percent by 2020, a plan strongly opposed by Washington.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has lifted his country's six-week-old state of emergency. Information Minister Nisar Memon said Mr. Musharraf has signed the order ending emergency rule, which was imposed on November 3rd. President Musharraf is to address the nation later today. Pakistan's attorney general (Malik Mohammed Qayyum) told VOA (correspondent in Islamabad) that rights of individual expression will now be restored, and some media restrictions might be lifted.
AFGHAN VIOLENCE: Afghan officials say a rocket-filled vehicle blew up near Kabul's police headquarters early this morning, killing at least five people and wounding several others, including two policemen. A Defense Ministry spokesman (General Zahir Azimi) said moments before the explosion one rocket was fired -- apparently by remote control -- toward the police headquarters. But it landed in a crowd, causing civilian casualties. The rockets were smuggled into the city by hiding them under a pile of hay on the vehicle. Officials say it was not immediately clear if a suicide attacker was involved.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lankan military officials say at least 30 Tamil Tiger rebels and one soldier have been killed in a series of clashes in the country's north. Defense Ministry officials said five soldiers were also wounded in the fighting that began Friday in the districts of Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya (in Wanni jungles). The military's claim could not be independently verified. There has been no immediate comment from the rebels. Fighting in northern Sri Lanka has intensified in recent weeks as the government tries to crush the Tamil rebels, who have waged a violent campaign for independence since 1983.
SOKOR OIL SPILL: South Korea's Coast Guard says remnants of the country's worst oil spill have spread more than 100 kilometers from the site of the initial accident. The guard says tar-like clumps of oil have been spotted 120 kilometers south, near the island of Yeondo on South Korea's western coast. Coast guard officials say the clumps will make it easier to clean up, and pose less of a long-term environmental threat. South Korea's military has been working frantically to clean up the mess created when a barge slammed into a tanker and punctured it, spilling more than 10-thousand tons of crude oil in the sea.
NOKOR NUCLEAR: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il has replied to a personal letter from President Bush that urged the reclusive leader to fully disclose his country's secretive nuclear activities. The White House says the reply was sent through diplomatic channels in New York. North Korea and the United States do not have formal relations. Under a six-nation agreement, North Korea promised to begin dismantling its nuclear facilities and to declare all of its nuclear programs by the end of this month. In return, Pyongyang was promised energy assistance and political concessions.
BURMA - GEMS: Burma's military government says it will hold a major auction of gems in January, despite international calls to boycott imports of precious stones from the country. A notice published in Burma's state-run media Friday invited traders to a sale of gemstones in Rangoon from January 15th through 19th. Burma is one of the main producers of jade and other gems, as well as the source of up to 90 percent of the world's rubies. Gem auctions are a major revenue earner for Burma's military government. The government earned about 150 million dollars at a gem sale in November.
BURMA - BIRD FLU: The World Health Organization has confirmed Burma's first human case of bird flu. Based on information provided by the Burmese Ministry of Health, the WHO identified the victim as a seven-year-old girl from eastern Shan State. Officials say she developed symptoms of the disease last month in an area where there had been an outbreak of the H5N1 virus in poultry. The girl survived the disease. Seven countries in East Asia have reported human cases of the potentially deadly H5N1 virus. The two with the greatest number of cases are Indonesia and Vietnam.
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