AFGHAN - FRANCE: French President Nicolas Sarkozy has held talks with his Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, during an unannounced visit to Kabul. A statement from Mr. Karzai's office said that President Sarkozy has assured Afghanistan of long-term political and military support for the war torn country. It said the two leaders also discussed, what the statement described as, the two main challenges in Afghanistan -- poor security and opium production. Mr. Sarkozy also will meet French troops serving in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
PAKISTAN - BLAST: Pakistani security officials say several people have been detained in connection with Friday's suicide bombing at a mosque in the restive northwest that killed at least 50 people. The apparent target of the attack, former Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao, was not hurt, but his son and dozens of others were wounded. Security officials, who declined to be named, told reporters those detained include at least one suspected accomplice and that a search is underway for a possible second. They say investigators are also examining clothing, shoes and severed limbs of the suicide bomber in an effort to determine his identity.
The U.S. military in Iraq says coalition forces have detained six suspects and disrupted propaganda and finance operations of al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents. A military statement said the men were detained during operations today in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul. Separately, the military said one U.S. soldier was killed and 11 others wounded by two bombs that exploded next to their vehicles near the northern city of Kirkuk Friday. Also on Friday, a top Iraqi Shi'ite leader called for controls on U.S.-backed local Sunni groups that are fighting al-Qaida-linked insurgents.
THAILAND ELECTION: Voters in Thailand will vote Sunday in the first national election since a military coup last year. More than five-thousand candidates from 39 parties are running for 480 seats in the new parliament. One of the front-runners in the race for prime minister is former parliamentarian Abhisit Vejjajiva, whose Democratic Party is expected to win a majority on its own. His most formidable opponent is former Bangkok governor, senator, and television cooking show host Samak Sundaravej of the People Power Party, which was formed by the remnants of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai party, which was dissolved by the military coup.
RICE - TAIWAN: Taiwan's foreign minister expressed regret today about remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice opposing the island's referendum to join the United Nations. Foreign Minister James Huang's reaction came after Rice said Friday that the vote planned for March would be a provocative move that would unnecessarily raise tensions across the Taiwan strait (between China and Taiwan). The U.S. secretary of state said a referendum promises no real international benefits for the people of Taiwan.
US - BURMA: The United States is calling for renewed international pressure on Burma to end a crackdown on the opposition. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday she is concerned that world attention toward Burma has eased since the government cracked down on protests led by Buddhist monks in September. She said the international community has a responsibility to keep up the pressure on Burma. The secretary promised that the United States would continue to press the issue at the United Nations Security Council and with countries that have influence on Burma, such as China.
BELGIUM SECURITY: Belgium officials say they have released 14 suspects detained Friday in an alleged plot to free an al-Qaida prisoner, because of a lack of evidence. Authorities say the investigation continues. Heightened security measures remain in effect across Belgium, and authorities say the security alert will last at least through New Year's Day. Security was tightened at airports, rail stations and other public places after police made the arrests Friday. Belgian government officials say the suspects were planning to use explosives to stage a prison break for an al-Qaida loyalist who planned to attack a Belgian air base that houses American military personnel.
INDIA - ARREST: Indian police say they have arrested two Islamic militants suspected of involvement in a series of explosions outside courthouses in three northern cities last month, in which at least 13 people were killed. Police say security officials arrested the suspects early today at a railway station near Lucknow, the capital of northern Uttar Pradesh state. The two men are believed to have links to the Bangladesh-based Harkatul Jihad Al-Islami extremist group. Police said both men were Indian Muslims, but did not specify if the two planted the bombs that rocked the courthouses in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad on November 23rd.
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