US POLITICS: U.S. Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, in a tight race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, look to score decisive victories in three contests today. Obama and Clinton campaigned hard ahead of today's primary in Washington state and caucuses in Louisiana and Nebraska. They also face off Sunday in a caucus in Maine. The contests are the first time voters have had a chance to make their choices known since last week's Super Tuesday primaries, when the two Democrats battled to a near dead heat.
TURKEY - HEAD SCARVES: Turkey's parliament has passed constitutional amendments that lift a decades-old ban on women wearing Islamic head scarves at the country's universities. Today's vote was the second and final procedure on an amendment that says no one can be deprived of their right to higher education. The text refers to Muslim women who could not attend classes while wearing head scarves. Lawmakers also approved an amendment that says all Turkish citizens will be treated equally by the state and its institutions.
PAKISTAN - TALIBAN: Pakistan is dismissing an assertion by a U.S. official that the leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban are operating out of that country's remote tribal areas. A foreign ministry spokesman (Mohammad Sadiq) stressed that Islamabad would take action if Washington provided intelligence to back up the claim. A senior U.S. official in Washington told reporters Friday that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri and others were operating out of Pakistan's tribal areas, near the Afghan border.
IRAQ: U.S. military officials in Iraq say five American troops have been killed in two separate attacks. Four of the soldiers were killed Friday when their vehicle struck a roadside bomb while they were on patrol in the capital of Baghdad. The other soldier was killed in an explosion during an operation in northern Iraq. Earlier Friday, the U.S. military says it killed eight suspected terrorists and captured 22 others in operations to disrupt al-Qaida networks in northern and central Iraq. A military statement says the operations took place Friday and Thursday.
G7 - ECON - JAPAN: Finance leaders from the world's wealthiest nations meeting in Tokyo are warning that the U.S. economy may slide further, and that will erode global growth. In a draft statement today at the Group of Seven meeting, the finance ministers said they are concerned about the U.S. credit and housing crunch, but they did pledge to work together to promote stability. The finance chiefs also issued a statement urging China to allow more flexibility of the value of it curency, the yuan.
SRI LANKA: Sri Lanka's military says it has killed 41 Tamil Tiger insurgents in two separate battles in the island's embattled north. A military spokesman says 29 rebels were killed in fighting Friday in the northern districts of Jaffna, Mannar and Vavuniya. The military said 12 Tamil Tiger rebels were killed earlier in Mannar. The military says three government soldiers were killed in the battles. The military also says it has captured a one kilometer stretch of rebel positions was captured in Mannar.
INDIA - NUCLEAR: The U.S ambassador to India says the nuclear deal between the two nations could be scuttled if Indian lawmakers do not ratify the pact. Ambassador David Mulford said (in a televised interview pm CNN-IBN) it is "now or never" for the deal to be approved. Mulford says if the pact is not ratified, it would have to go through another round of hearings in the U.S. Congress. He says the same deal would not be offered to New Delhi in later years, because of substantial changes imposed by non-proliferation groups.
US - CHINA - AID: The U.S. military has sent thousands of coats, blankets and food rations to China to help victims of the country's severe winter weather. China's official Xinhua news agency says the humanitarian aid is worth about 820 thousand dollars. It quoted the head of foreign affairs for China's defense ministry (Qian Lihua) as expressing his appreciation for the assistance. Meteorologists believe this is the worst winter to hit the Chinese mainland in over 50 years, with crippling snow and ice. Xinhua says the storms' overall toll was about 80 dead, and seven-and-one-half billion dollars in storm-related damage.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thailand's new Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej says he will work to lift a political ban against deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra, but will not interfere in the corruption case against him. Mr. Samak told reporters in Bangkok Friday that former prime minister Thaksin and his top party officials pose no threat to the new government and could receive amnesty in about two years. But he said the former leader, who has been living in exile since a 2006 military coup removed him from office, must face corruption charges when he returns to Thailand and should receive a fair trail.
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