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Iraq Sets Curfew on 5th Anniversary of the Fall of Baghdad


IRAQ: The Iraqi government has imposed a one-day curfew on Baghdad for today, the fifth anniversary of the day U.S.-led forces swept into the city. Officials say cars and motorcycles are banned from the streets from five in the morning to midnight local time (0200-2100 UTC). Despite the strengthened security measures, violence raged on in Baghdad's Sadr City district, where three mortar shells killed seven people and wounded at least 24 others. It is unclear who was responsible for the attack.

OLYMPIC TORCH: Authorities in San Francisco are bracing for anti-China protests today as the western U.S. city hosts the latest leg of the Olympic torch's world relay. San Francisco officials say hundreds of police will patrol the 10-kilometer route of the torch relay in anticipation of demonstrations by thousands of protesters. Officials say they may change the relay's route at the last minute for security reasons. U.S. authorities hope to avoid a repeat of chaotic scenes in Paris and London in recent days in which anti-China activists disrupted the torch relay.

RUDD - CHINA: Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says there are "significant" human rights problems in Tibet. Mr. Rudd made those comments today in a speech to students at Beijing University at the start of a four-day trip to China. In a transcript of the speech, the Australian premier says Canberra recognizes China's sovereignty over Tibet, and called on all sides to "avoid silence" and enter negotiations to find a lasting solution. Mr. Rudd also repeated his opposition to a boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics.

ZIMBABWE ELECTION: Zimbabwe's High Court is set to reopen a hearing to decide whether to order the country's electoral commission to release the result of presidential elections held 11 days ago. A High Court judge (Tendai Uchena) who had called the case urgent Tuesday, ordered further arguments today (Wednesday) (0800 UTC). Zimbabwe's opposition is accusing President Robert Mugabe of arming militias in a campaign of violence, and is appealing to African leaders to intervene in the country's electoral standoff.

NEPAL - UNREST: Nepalese police have opened fire on protesters in western Nepal, killing one person a day before elections for a special assembly. The protesters rallied today in Surkhet district against the killing of a candidate from the country's ruling coalition. The candidate was shot Tuesday by unknown gunmen. Nepalese media and officials say police opened fire when the demonstrators became violent. Authorities had imposed a curfew after the killing of the candidate. Nepal is due to hold an election Thursday for a special assembly that will draft the country's new constitution.

NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The lead U.S. negotiator on the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks says no breakthrough has been reached. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrived in Beijing today after holding direct talks with Kim Kye Kwan, his North Korean counterpart, in Singapore Tuesday. Hill told reporters he and Kwan made "some progress" on ending a deadlock over dismantling the North's nuclear programs. Negotiations have been stalled since December, when Washington said Pyongyang had failed to fully disclose all of its nuclear activities as required by an agreement it reached with the other five nations involved in the talks.

JAPAN - ECONOMY: Japan's parliament has approved a new head for the country's central bank, ending a month-long political stalemate. Lower house lawmakers gave the okay today for acting Bank of Japan governor Masaaki Shirakawa to take on the top job on a permanent basis. The upper house of parliament approved Shirakawa's nomination earlier in the day. The post has been vacant since mid-March. The opposition controlled upper house had rejected two previous nominees because of concerns that the selection of former Finance Ministry bureaucrats could endanger the Bank of Japan's independence.

HAITI - UNREST: Violent protests over the soaring cost of living have again erupted across Haiti, bringing parts of the impoverished Caribbean nation to a virtual standstill. At least seven people -- including at least one journalist -- were injured on Tuesday, as rioters clashed with police in protests over rising food prices. Schools and businesses in the capital, Port-au-Prince, were closed, and many residents stayed indoors as demonstrators burned tires, erected flaming barricades and threw rocks.

COLOMBIA - FRANCE: French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is expected to soon travel to Colombia in a renewed effort to gain the release of French-Colombian hostage Ingrid Betancourt. Kouchner said today France will not abandon efforts to free Betancourt. She has been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for more than six years. The group refused to allow a French medical team to meet with her this week. Kouchner said Tuesday the rebels' refusal was a serious political error, as well as a humanitarian tragedy. He said France is withdrawing the team.

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