TIBET PROTESTS: U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi has urged the international community to denounce China's crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet. Pelosi spoke after talks with the Dalai Lama in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has established a government-in-exile. Thousands of Tibetans turned out to greet Pelosi. She is the first major international official to meet the Dalai Lama since China moved to suppress anti-government protests in Tibet that erupted into rioting. Pelosi, a fierce critic of China's human rights record, says the situation in Tibet presents a "challenge to the conscience of the world."
US POL: New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, a former presidential candidate, plans to endorse Democratic Senator Barack Obama for president. Officials with Obama's campaign tell news agencies that the two men will appear together at a rally today in Portland, Oregon. In a statement obtained by the Associated Press, Richardson calls Obama a "one of a kind" leader who can bring the country together. Richardson, the nation's only Hispanic governor, was energy secretary under former President Bill Clinton and was also an ambassador to the United Nations.
CHINA - QUAKE: A major earthquake hit northwestern China today near the border between Xinjiang and Tibet. No details of any damage or injuries in the sparsely populated region are yet available. The initial quake had a magnitude of seven-point-two, followed by two strong aftershocks (measuring five-point-three and five-point-five). It jolted the Xinjiang region, home to China's Turkic Uighur minority, early this morning (0633 local / just after 22-hours-30 Thursday, UTC). Seismologists at the U.S. Geological Survey say the earthquake's center was about 225 kilometers southeast of the Chinese city of Hotan.
US - SAUDAI ARABIA: U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is expected to talk with Saudi King Abdullah about ways to stabilize the world's oil market. Cheney arrived in Saudi Arabia today after an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. U.S. officials say Cheney will also encourage Saudi Arabia to increase formal ties with Iraq to counter Iran's growing regional influence. Saudi Arabia and several other Arab states have yet to send ambassadors to Baghdad. On Thursday in Afghanistan, Cheney met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two officials urged NATO countries to step up their commitment to help Afghanistan fight extremists and recover from years of war.
CYPRUS: Cyprus President Demetris Christofias is meeting in Nicosia with Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today in an effort to resolve the island's decades-long division. President Christofias says there is no time for delays, and that the talks must succeed. He said failure would be devastating for the futures of the Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Cyprus has been split between Greek and Turkish Cypriots since 1974, when Turkey invaded the island in response to a military coup by the Cypriot National Guard aimed at uniting the island with Greece.
ANNAN - IRAN: Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the international dispute over Iran's nuclear program must be settled through dialogue and cooperation by both sides. Mr. Annan says Tehran should prove to the international community that its nuclear program is peaceful, and is not intended to produce atomic weapons. The former U.N. chief says the best way to do this would be for Iran to give inspectors full access to the country's nuclear facilities. However, if negotiations and dialogue with Iran do not produce any results, Mr. Annan said, he would strongly advise against taking any military action against Iran.
THAILAND - BURMA: Thailand's foreign minister says Burma can not be forced into implementing democratic reforms. Speaking at foreign policy forum in Washington Thursday, Noppadon Pattama said Western sanctions against Burma's ruling military government have not been effective. Noppadon says only economic engagement with Burma will bring about the democratic changes sought by the world community. Burma was condemned by many nations after its deadly crackdown of pro-democracy protesters last September. Noppadon was in Washington for talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Thursday.
JAPAN - NAVAL ACCIDENT: Japan's defense minister has ordered a major shakeup of the country's naval forces after a series of scandals, including the recent fatal collision between a warship and fishing boat. Shigeru Ishiba dismissed Admiral Eiji Yoshikawa as head of Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force today because of the collision, which occurred last month in waters near Tokyo. Two fisherman were killed in the incident. Ishiba also announced disciplinary action against 87 other high-ranking officers for several other incidents, including a leak of confidential data about a U.S.-developed radar system.
ZIMBABWE - ELECTION: Longtime Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he may pull out of the upcoming presidential election unless changes are made to ensure the vote is fair. Tsvangirai said Thursday 90-thousand ghost voters have been registered to benefit President Robert Mugabe. He also said that ballots must be counted at individual polling stations instead of at a national command center in Harare as Mr. Mugabe wants. In an opinion piece Tsvangirai wrote for today's Wall Street Journal, he charges that Mr. Mugabe's government has repeatedly stolen elections over the years.
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