U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is in Baghdad on a previously-unannounced visit to encourage political reconciliation among Iraq's factions. Rice went into a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki shortly after arriving in Baghdad today (Tuesday) from the Saudi capital Riyadh, where she has been accompanying President Bush on a Middle East tour. She is due to return to Riyadh later today. Secretary Rice's visit comes three days after Iraq's parliament passed a law allowing many former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to be reinstated to government jobs.
BUSH-MIDEAST: U.S. President George Bush says he will use a meeting with Saudi King Abdullah today (Tuesday) to talk about how record-high oil prices are hurting the U.S. economy. Mr. Bush says OPEC should understand that if the economy of a major oil consumer suffers, the cartel will sell less oil and gas. He was speaking on the second day of a visit to Saudi Arabia, the latest stop of his Mideast tour. Oil prices have surged in recent months, hitting 100 dollars a barrel and driving up energy costs for fueling cars and heating homes. Saudi Arabia produces almost a third of OPEC's oil output and takes the lead in the cartel on output decisions.
AFGHANISTAN: Officials in Afghanistan say the death toll from Monday's commando-style attack at a luxury hotel in the capital, Kabul, has risen to eight. Police said today (Tuesday) that they have arrested two suspects following the assault on the heavily-guarded hotel, which is frequented by foreigners and diplomats. An Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman and foreign officials confirmed that one U.S. citizen, a Philippine employee at the hotel, and a Norwegian journalist were among the dead, along with several hotel security guards.
CHINA-US-MILITARY: The head of U.S. forces in the Pacific says China needs to be more open about its military expansion, and he suggested the build-up was aimed at Taiwan. Admiral Timothy Keating told a news conference in Beijing today (Tuesday) that he is concerned about China's development of new hardware, including long-range cruise missiles and anti-satellite technology. One of China's top generals has said the United States should not be concerned about increases in China's military spending, which went up to a reported 45 billion dollars last year. General Chen Bingde (chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army) met with Admiral Keating Monday and said China sees no need to compete militarily with the United States, and that its military development is for defensive purposes.
THAI-POL: Thailand's Supreme Court will rule Friday whether to ban the People Power Party for violating election laws. The PPP won general elections last month, but fell short of a majority. A member of the Democrat Party, which came in second behind the PPP, brought the case today (Tuesday) before the Supreme Court for Election Operations. The Democrat candidate accused the PPP of being a front for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) Party, which was dissolved after a September, 2006 military coup.
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