BUSH - AFRICA: President Bush says highlighting the success stories on the African continent will help other nations "understand what is possible." Mr. Bush made the remarks today in Cotonou, Benin, on the first stop of his five-nation African tour. He and Mrs. Bush arrived earlier today for brief talks with his counterpart, Thomas Boni Yayi, before traveling on to Tanzania. The U.S. president acknowledged the strife affecting other African nations, including Kenya, which has been plagued by deadly violence since December's disputed presidential elections.
KOSOVO: The European Union has approved a civilian police and justice mission to help keep the peace and prevent human rights abuses in Kosovo, in advance of an anticipated declaration of independence from Serbia that could be made Sunday. A force of about 18 hundred troops specializing in police, prosecution and government administrative duties was given final EU approval today. The mission had to be approved by all 27 EU nations. Both Serbia and Russia oppose the EU mission as well as Kosovo's move towards independence.
INDIA ATTACK: Hundreds of Maoist rebels have attacked police facilities in eastern India, killing at least 13 police officers and one civilian. Police officials say the rebels looted weapons during the attacks, which took place late Friday in at least two towns in Orissa state. At least 11 police officers were wounded in the attacks, some critically. In late December, nearly 300 Maoist rebels and their supporters escaped from a prison in eastern India. The rebels, called Naxalites, say they are fighting for the rights of poor, landless peasants and neglected tribal people.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani politicians are wrapping up their campaigns for Monday's key elections which could determine the future of President Pervez Musharraf's hold on power. Campaigning ahead of the elections for the lower house of parliament and four provincial assemblies must end at midnight local time Saturday. Mr. Musharraf's presidency is not being contested, but if parties that back him lose control of the legislature, he could be impeached. Opposition parties charge the vote will be rigged and have threatened demonstrations if they believe there are irregularities.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Islamic militants are vowing to avenge the death of a key Islamic Jihad commander, killed Friday in an explosion in the Gaza Strip. The blast destroyed the home of Ayman al-Fayed and damaged nearby homes in the Bureij refugee camp near Gaza City. Seven other Palestinians were killed in the explosion, including al-Fayed's wife and two of their children. At least 40 other people were wounded. Islamic Jihad and witnesses blamed the explosion on an Israeli missile strike, but the Israeli military denied involvement.
MALAYSIA - PROTEST: Malaysian police used tear gas and water cannon today to disperse an anti-government protest by ethnic Indians. About 300 people carrying roses defied a police ban on protests and gathered in Independence Square in the capital of Kuala Lumpur to peacefully protest alleged discrimination. More than 100 police turned out to disperse the gathering with water cannon and tear gas. Children as young as 10 were included in the demonstration. Hindus accuse the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi of racial discrimination in favor of ethnic Malays.
VIETNAM - DISSIDENTS: Hundreds of dissidents, friends and family attended the funeral today of Vietnamese dissident Hoang Minh Chinh, who died this month at the age of 85 after a long battle with cancer. Dozens of plain-clothes police watched and videotaped the mourners at the funeral in Hanoi. Chinh was once a prominent member of the ruling Communist Party in Hanoi, and acted as a director of the Institute of Marxist-Leninist Philosophy. But in the 1960s, he became disillusioned with the communists and began calling for more democracy. He was jailed for his views for many years.
BURMA: Military-ruled Burma has warned of further attacks by ethnic rebels following the assassination of a rebel leader who was an outspoken critic of the government. Karen National Union secretary general Pado Mahn Sha Lap was killed Thursday at his home in the Thai border town of Mae Sot. The state-run "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper warned today that internal and external forces were plotting bomb attacks in some "important places."
THAILAND - SOUTH UNREST: Thailand's newly appointed interior minister, Chalerm Yubamrung, has backtracked on comments he made this week suggesting the government would consider autonomy for the country's violence-plagued south. In remarks to reporters Friday, Chalerm said he is abandoning what he said earlier, adding that southern provinces would be just like other provinces. In his earlier comments, he said the government must take measures to improve the situation in Thailand's Muslim-dominated south.
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