ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: The Israeli army says one of its soldiers was killed and three others wounded today when a bomb blew up their jeep near the Gaza Strip. The Islamic Jihad militant group claimed responsibility for the ambush. Elsewhere, Palestinian medics said an Israeli attack in northern Gaza killed a Palestinian militant. Israeli has not commented on the incident. The new violence follows a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who secured pledges from Israeli and Palestinian leaders to resume peace talks.
SRI LANKA - RIGHTS: An international panel monitoring human rights in Sri Lanka has announced it is resigning, saying the government failed to support the process. The International Independent Group of Eminent Persons said today the Sri Lankan government failed to meet the basic minimum standards pertaining to investigations and inquiries. The group said it will terminate its operations on the island. Meanwhile, the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said in a new report the Sri Lankan government is responsible for widespread abductions and disappearances that are a national crisis.
UN - BURMA: The United Nations' special envoy for Burma has arrived in the military-ruled country to resume mediation between the government and the opposition. A U.N. spokeswoman says Ibrahim Gambari expects to stay in the country "as long as necessary." He will attempt to persuade the military government to hold direct negotiations with pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and allow her National League for Democracy to participate in May's upcoming constitutional referendum. Burmese officials have barred her from the elections because she was once married to a foreigner, a British citizen who died of cancer in 1999.
THAILAND - THAKSIN: Deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he will ask for permission to leave the country next week for a trip to Britain. Mr. Thaksin told reporters in Bangkok today that he wants to travel to Manchester, where he owns the city's football (soccer) club. The ex-premier says he wants to travel to Britain on March 13th -- the day Thailand's Supreme Court has scheduled a court hearing for him to face corruption charges related to a real estate purchase. Mr. Thaksin was greeted by thousands of well-wishers when he returned to Thailand on February 28th, 17 months after he was overthrown in a bloodless coup.
CHINA - US - MILITARY: China's official Communist Party newspaper says the United States is exaggerating Chinese military capabilities to justify arms sales to Taiwan. An editorial in the People's Daily newspaper today denounced a U.S. military report released Monday. That report said Beijing was developing space-based weapons, and had increased its ability to conduct cyberwarfare. The Chinese editorial also slammed Washington for rejecting a joint Russian-Chinese initiative on an anti-space weapons treaty.
INDONESIA - AUSTRALIA:
Indonesia's Supreme Court has commuted the death sentences of three Australians convicted of drug trafficking two years ago. The court changed the sentences of Si Yi Chen, Tan Duc Thanh Nguyen and Matthew Norman to life imprisonment. An Australian newspaper says the court felt a lower court was in error when it increased the trio's initial sentence of 20 years in prison to death. The Daily Telegraph says their previous good character and youth played a major role in the high court's decision.
SUDAN - DARFUR: The U.S. is pressuring the United Nations to deploy 26 thousand peacekeeping troops in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Richard Williamson, President Bush's special envoy to Sudan, says he will be meeting today with representatives of countries he describes as allies of the U.N. and African Union force, to tackle obstacles that are holding up troop deployment. The U.N. authorized the mission last July, but has assembled a force of only nine thousand troops. One obstacle has been Sudan's insistence that peacekeepers be of African origin.
COLOMBIA - VENEZUELA - ECUADOR: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is threatening to end his country's trade ties with Colombia, in response to a recent Colombian military raid on a leftist rebel outpost in Ecuador. Mr. Chavez made the threat Wednesday in Caracas during a joint news conference with Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa. The two men have condemned last Saturday's cross-border attack that killed more than 20 Colombian FARC rebels, including FARC commander Raul Reyes. Mr. Chavez has deployed thousands of Venezuelan troops to Colombia's border, but says his nation is not seeking an armed conflict.
BEIJING OLYMPICS STADIUM:
The completion of Beijing's centerpiece venue for the upcoming Olympics is being delayed by about one month. The new National Stadium, known as the Birds Nest, will host several events, including the opening and closing ceremonies for the games which run from August eighth through the 24th. But the intricate preparations for those ceremonies have delayed final construction work on the stadium. Chinese officials say the venue will now be completed at the end of April instead of this month.
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