RICE - BRITAIN - AFGHANISTAN:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband have made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan's volatile Kandahar province, a former Taliban stronghold. The two, who arrived in the country today were expected to meet with NATO-led forces on the frontlines of the fight against the resurgent Taliban.
Rice told reporters traveling with the pair from London that there needs to be more Afghan contributions to the coalition force fighting the insurgents. In London Wednesday, Rice said NATO forces are facing a "real test" in Afghanistan, and stressed that alliance members must share the burden of combat against the Taliban. Rice said NATO countries need to understand that the alliance is fighting an armed insurgency in Afghanistan and not simply participating in a peacekeeping mission.
TURKEY - HEAD SCARVES:
Turkey's parliament has approved a
constitutional amendment to lift a decades-old ban on women wearing Islamic head scarves at the country's universities. In a vote early Thursday, the bill won more than the two-thirds majority required for it to become law. A second and final vote is scheduled for Saturday. The text of the amendment says no one can be deprived of their right to higher education, alluding to Muslim women who could not attend classes while wearing head scarves.
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party backed the measure. The measure also won the support of Turkey's President Abdullah Gul, who says universities should be open to all beliefs and views. But the opposition Republican People's Party says the amendment threatens Turkey's secular traditions.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS:
Israeli forces backed by warplanes and tanks killed six Palestinian militants and one civilian during a raid into Gaza early today. Officials of the Islamic militant group Hamas say five of the Palestinians who died in the fighting in the northern Gaza Strip were Hamas members. They also say an Israeli misslie struck a school in the town of Beit Hanun, killing a teacher and wounding at least two people.
Wednesday, a Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza struck a home in southern Israel, wounding two young children. Earlier this week, Hamas claimed responsibility for Monday's suicide bombing that killed an Israeli woman in the Israeli town of Dimona. Israeli officials say Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and his top aides Wednesday approved construction of a reinforced barrier on the border with Egypt, to prevent infiltration by Palestinian militants.
U.S. officials have told 10 Kenyan
businessmen and politicians that they are not welcome in the United States because they have been involved in or incited post-election violence. A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, T.J. Dowling, told VOA that it is U.S. policy to deny visas to what he called "criminals." He said letters were sent earlier this week informing the 10 leaders that neither they nor their immediate families would be allowed to travel to the U.S. Dowling said he did not know who is on the list, but that it included lawmakers from President Mwai Kibaki's governing party and the main opposition Orange Democratic Movement, led by Raila Odinga. The opposition has accused Mr. Kibaki of rigging his re-election in the December 27th balloting.
THAILAND'S NEW PRIME MINISTER:
The United States says it will resume military aid to Thailand following the country's return to a civilian government. In a statement Wednesday, a U.S. State Department spokesman (Tom Casey) congratulated Thailand's new cabinet on its inauguration. He said Deputy US Secretary of State John Negroponte determined that Thailand now has a democratically elected government, removing legal restrictions on assistance imposed after the September 2006 military coup.
The new Thai cabinet of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej was sworn in Wednesday, shortly after Thai King Bhumipol Adulyadej approved it in a ceremony at his palace in Bangkok. The new cabinet has several supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, including Mr. Samak, who has openly pledged loyalty to him.
CAMBODIA - KHMER ROUGE
A former Khmer Rouge leader has asked
a U.N. -backed court to free him while he awaits trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. Appearing today (Thursday) before Cambodia's genocide tribunal, Nuon Chea said he is not a threat to the public and he will not try to leave the country. The 81-year-old Nuon Chea -- also known as "Brother Number Two -- was the deputy closest to Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot, who ruled Cambodia in a reign of terror from 1975 to 1979. This was his second appearance before the tribunal this week. His first bail hearing was cut short on Monday over a dispute concerning the legal status of one of his two foreign lawyers.
Listen to audio files for more details.