BUSH - MIDEAST: U.S. President George Bush says he believes there will be a signed peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians by the time he leaves office a year from now. Speaking at a joint news conference with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mr. Bush said he is convinced that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders "understand the importance of democratic states living side by side" in peace. Mr. Bush also called on the Palestinian leadership to rein in militants trying to derail peace efforts.
PAKISTAN UNREST: Pakistani police say 22 people, mostly policemen, have been killed in a suicide bomb attack in the eastern city of Lahore. Officials say more than 60 other people were wounded. Today's blast ripped through a busy square in front of the Lahore High Court where dozens of police had gathered ahead of a planned anti-government protest by lawyers. Local Police Chief Malik Iqbal told local media that all but one of the victims were policemen. Authorities say the bomber was riding a motorcycle and blew himself up when police asked him to stop outside the court.
INDONESIA - SUHARTO: Doctors say the health of former Indonesian president Suharto remains unstable as excess fluid fills his lungs and he struggles with breathing. The chief doctor treating Mr. Suharto says today physicians are working to improve the condition of his lungs. He also says the former president's kidneys are weak and that plans to give him a new pacemaker have been put on hold. Mr. Suharto was admitted to Jakarta's Pertamina Hospital last Friday suffering heart and kidney problems. Since then, his health has wavered between critical condition and showing signs of improvement.
SOKOR - POLITICS: South Korea's Constitutional Court has ruled that a special investigation into financial fraud allegations against President-elect Lee Myung-bak can proceed. The court's decision today clears the way for a special prosecutor to begin investigating Mr. Lee's alleged links to a 2001 stock manipulation scandal as early as next week. The investigation is expected to wrap up around the time Mr. Lee is sworn into office on February 25th. The court's decision was a response to a request last week from a group of Mr. Lee's relatives and business partners who claimed the probe was unconstitutional.
JAPAN - CLIMATE: The Japanese newspaper Nikkei business daily reported Thursday that Tokyo plans to pledge 10 billion dollars in aid over the next five years to help developing countries fight global warming. The newspaper, without citing sources, reported that Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is expected to make the announcement either in parliament or at the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, later this month. The aid will reportedly focus on measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ease the effects of disasters caused by global warming, promote the use of alternative energy sources and boost the efficiency of China's aging coal-fired power stations.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels say they are ready to implement a ceasefire, even though a deal has been abandoned by the government. In a statement released today, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) say they are ready to implement every clause of the ceasefire agreement. The statement called on Norway to maintain its role as a peace broker with the support of the international community. Last week, the Sri Lankan government announced it is formally scrapping the 2002 truce it signed with the rebels. It has not responded to the Tigers' statement.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan has welcomed a proposed U.S. plan to send up to three thousand additional soldiers to the country to thwart an expected spring offensive by Taliban militants. Defense Ministry Spokesman Zahir Azimi says the deployment of additional forces would help with current anti-insurgency operations. However, he adds that the long-term solution to providing safety and security in the country is the development of a stronger Afghan National Army. On Wednesday, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he is considering a proposal to send three-thousand additional U.S. Marines to Afghanistan by April.
IRAQ: The U.S. military in Iraq says it carried out major air strikes against al-Qaida in Iraq today, flattening what the military called terrorist safehouses on the southern outskirts of Baghdad. A military statement said warplanes dropped more than 18-thousand kilograms of explosives on three large areas in Arab Jabour. The statement said more than 40 targets were hit. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the air strikes, which are described as part of a countrywide military offensive (Operation Phantom Phoenix) launched this week against al-Qaida in Iraq insurgents.
TANZANIA - CORRUPTION: Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete has fired his Central Bank Governor over allegations of fraudulent transactions. The president's office said Daudi Ballali will be replaced by deputy bank governor, Benno Ndulu. A statement Wednesday said the president is saddened and angered by reports the bank acted inappropriately. An investigation into the bank had revealed that more than 120 million dollars had been improperly paid to 22 local firms. Eliminating corruption has been one of President Kikwete's top priorities since coming to power in 2005.
INDIA - CAR: India's Tata Motors has unveiled what is being described as the world's cheapest car. The Tata Nano, also known as the "People's Car", will carry a price of just 25-hundred dollars. The four-door, five-passenger vehicle made its debut today at the Indian Auto Expo auto show in New Delhi. The car, which goes on sale later this year, has no air conditioning, electric windows or power steering. Company chairman Ratan Tata says nothing was eliminated in the manufacturing of the car to compromise safety standards or emission laws.
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