A summit of the six countries connected by the Mekong River got under way today (Sunday) in Laos. Leaders from Laos, Cambodia, China, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam are meeting in the capital of Vientiane to discuss economic and social development and cooperation in the region. The third Greater Mekong Subregion summit is co-hosted by the Asian Development bank. The bloc was established in 1992 to boost economic growth and reduce poverty in the countries that share the Mekong, Southeast Asia's longest river.
IRAQ: Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has ordered his Shi'ite militias
to defy the Baghdad government's surrender order, and his followers say they are fighting on against Iraqi troops. Sadr told fighters in the Mehdi Army and other Shi'ite groups to keep their weapons until Iraq has a government that will expel U.S. forces from the country. (Iraqi) Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says Sadr's gunmen are a worse threat to Iraq than al-Qaida terrorists. He ordered Iraq forces to press their drive against Shi'ite fighters in the city of Basra, Iraq's port for oil shipments through the Gulf.
US-MIDEAST: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has again called on Israel to take meaningful steps to improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank. Rice told reporters in Jerusalem today (Sunday) that she hopes Israelis and Palestinians will be able to work together to improve both security for Israel as well as economic viability issues facing Palestinians. Rice, who is in the Middle East to try to push forward Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, spoke at a joint news conference with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Livni said Israel is prepared to do whatever it can to help ease the lives of Palestinians. But she said those efforts must not affect Israel's security.
AFGHANISTAN-PAKISTAN: Afghan, Pakistani and NATO officials have opened the first of six planned intelligence centers along the Afghan-Pakistani border, as part of an effort to regain control of the troubled region. The center, located in the Afghan town of Torkham, will be staffed by Afghan and Pakistani intelligence agents who will have access to intelligence from the U.S.-led coalition force. Two more such centers will be built in Afghanistan, and three in Pakistan. Afghan and NATO military commanders say the new centers will boost cooperation and help rein in the movement of militants.
CHINA-TIBET: Fresh protests were reported in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa Saturday, as diplomats from the United States, Japan and several European countries wrapped up a closely managed tour of the region organized by Chinese officials. The International Campaign for Tibet and Tibet's government in exile said new protests had occurred near major Buddhist temples in Lhasa where earlier demonstrations turned violent March 14th. Diplomats from 15 countries visited the Tibetan capital on a Chinese-approved tour of the region.