ZIMBABWE - ELECTION: Voters across Zimbabwe are at the polls today to choose a new parliament and to decide whether President Robert Mugabe wins a sixth term in office. Many Zimbabweans lined up before dawn to cast ballots when polls opened at 7 a.m. local time. Mr. Mugabe and his main challengers Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai all cast their votes at locations around the capital, Harare. All three told reporters they feel confident of victory. Makoni and Tsvangirai say Zimbabwe needs new leadership following an economic collapse that has seen inflation rise above 100-thousand percent.
IRAQ: Iraqi authorities say the death toll from five days of intense fighting between Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias has surged to more than 200. Many of the casualties have occurred in Baghdad's Sadr City, a stronghold of militias loyal to Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A spokesman for the Iraqi Health Ministry says at least 75 people have been killed and nearly 500 wounded in clashes and U.S.-led airstrikes. There are reports that dozens of policemen in Sadr City surrendered their weapons to Sadr's forces, saying they could not fight their own people.
CHINA - TIBET: Diplomats from more than a dozen countries, including the United States, visited the Tibetan capital today on a Chinese-approved tour of the region, after recent anti-government protests there. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said in a statement that the trip to Lhasa was heavily scheduled and participants were not able to deviate from the official itinerary, nor move around independently. The delegates were also not allowed to hold unsupervised conversations with local residents.
PAKISTAN POL: Pakistan's new Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani says fighting terrorism will be his government's top priority. Mr. Gilani made the remark today in a speech laying out plans for his coalition government's first 100 days. The prime minister said extremism was a serious problem for the country and that the government would be willing to hold talks with militants who lay down their arms. Earlier today, Mr. Gilani secured the unanimous approval of parliament without a vote of confidence, after allies of President Pervez Musharraf pledged to support him.
AFGHANISTAN BOMB: Police in the southern Afghan province of Helmand say a bomb exploded at a power station building today, killing two people and wounding eight others. The provincial police chief (Mohammad Hussein Andiwal) says both of those killed and six of the wounded were employees of the station. The French news agency says the insurgent Taliban movement is claiming it planted the bomb in an attempt to kill the district police chief, who regularly held meetings in the building.
ARAB SUMMIT: The Arab League summit convened today in the Syrian capital of Damascus, with many heads of state in the region boycotting the event. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad welcomed delegations from the 22 Arab League members, including Algeria, Kuwait, Libya, Sudan and Tunisia. Nearly a dozen heads of state are not attending the forum, including Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah and Lebanon's Prime Minister Fuad Siniora - all close allies of the United States. They have accused Syria of interfering in Lebanon's political affairs.
NOKOR MISSILES: South Korea says there are no signs that North Korea is preparing to launch more missiles, a day after the Stalinist country fired a barrage of short-range missiles into the Yellow Sea. A South Korean military official said today that there are no unusual moves in the North that would indicate further missile firings. The North's navy fired three ship-to-ship missiles in the waters off the peninsula's west coast Friday morning. A spokesman for South Korea's presidential office downplayed the incident, saying the launchings appeared to be part of routine military training.
JAPAN - DEFENSE: Japanese officials say the military has completed the installation of a missile defense system to protect Tokyo. Defense officials said Patriot Advanced Capability-3 surface-to-air interceptors have been installed just northeast of the capital. The latest installation today is the last of four PAC-3 interceptors for Tokyo's defense system. Japan has been rapidly augmenting its missile defense capabilities amid concerns about possible threats from North Korea.
VIETNAM - INDIA - RICE: Major rice exporters Vietnam and India say they will limit overseas rice sales to try to bring inflation under control and secure domestic supplies. Over the past year, the global price of rice has doubled, raising concerns about food insecurity. Vietnam's prime minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, announced Friday that rice exports must not exceed three and-one-half million tons this year. That is down from four and-one-half million tons last year. India raised minimum export prices for non-basmati rice Friday from 650 dollars per metric ton to one thousand dollars per ton, saying the move is needed to protect domestic supplies.
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