ZIMBABWE: South African President Thabo Mbeki arrived in the Zimbabwean capital of Harare today to hold talks with President Robert Mugabe on that country's post-presidential election crisis. Mr. Mbeki is meeting with his Zimbabwean counterpart ahead of an emergency summit of the Southern African Development Community in Zambia to discuss the crisis. He was appointed last year by the 14-nation bloc to mediate between Mr. Mugabe and opposition leaders. Zimbabwean state media announced Friday that Mr. Mugabe will not attend the SADC conference, but is sending a team of ministers in his place.
TAIWAN - CHINA: Taiwan's incoming vice president, Vincent Siew, met briefly today with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a regional forum in China. The two talked for 20 minutes on the sidelines of a forum at a Chinese resort (Boao) on Hainan island. Siew told Mr. Hu that he was an old hand (experienced) on Taiwan's economic issues. Siew said he hopes the two sides can strengthen economic cooperation. Mr. Hu said he was happy to exchange ideas with Siew on the cross-strait economy. The meeting was described as the highest-level direct contact between Taiwan and China since they split during a civil war in 1949.
IRAQ: The U.S. military says coalition forces killed at least 13 militants early today in fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City. The military says U.S. and Iraqi forces battled fighters who attacked with rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, rifles and roadside bombs. The joint forces say they used a missile from a drone aircraft and tank fire against the militants. Iraqi police say seven civilians were killed in the fighting. Military officials say there were no casualties among the U.S. or Iraqi soldiers.
AFGHANISTAN: An Afghan official says government troops and foreign forces have killed 24 Taliban militants in an operation in southern Afghanistan. The official (Ghulab Shah Alikheil) says Afghan troops and foreign warplanes attacked the militants late Friday in Zabul province. He says eight insurgents were wounded. Elsewhere, a suicide bomber struck a convoy carrying Indian and Afghan road workers in the southwestern province of Nimroz. Officials say the blast killed two Indian engineers and an Afghan driver and wounded several other people.
NEPAL - ELECTION: Nepal's former Maoist rebels are ahead in early election results for a special assembly that will rewrite the country's constitution. Nepal's election commission said today five Maoists have won seats in the assembly following Thursday's vote. It said Maoists also are leading in more than half of the 102 constituencies in which ballot counting is underway. One candidate from the Nepali Congress party of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala also has won a seat. A complete vote count from all of Nepal's constituencies is expected to take several weeks.
MACEDONIA POL: Macedonia's legislators voted today to dissolve parliament and hold early elections after the country failed to get a bid to join NATO. Seventy of the 120 lawmakers voted for the motion. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's conservative party (VMRO-DPMNE) agreed Wednesday to back the motion. The main ethnic Albanian opposition party, the Democratic Union for Integration, had also called for new elections. The multi-ethnic government has been in turmoil for months over the country's reform path and rights for the Albanian minority. The new elections will be held in three months.
CHINA - TIBET: Chinese President Hu Jintao said today Tibet is not a human rights problem and is an issue for China alone to handle. The official Xinhua news agency quotes Mr. Hu as telling visiting Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd that China's conflict with followers of the exiled Dalai Lama is not a problem of ethics, religion, nor human rights. Mr. Hu said it is a problem of either preserving national unity or splitting the motherland. On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged China to ease international concern about human rights in Tibet following the recent unrest there.
THAILAND - ARMS DEALER: Thai officials say suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout is being treated well in prison and there are no plans yet to extradite him to the United States. Thai officials also today rejected criticism from Russia's foreign ministry that Bout's rights were being violated. Thai authorities arrested Bout last month as part of a U.S.-led operation and charged him with trying to smuggle missiles to Marxist rebels in Colombia. But, Thailand dropped the charges Wednesday to clear the way for his possible extradition to the United States.
THAILAND POL: Thailand's Election Commission is seeking to have two political parties disbanded for violating electoral law. The commission ruled Friday that officials with the Chart Thai party and the Matchima Thiptaya party bought votes during December's election. Election Commission officials say they have referred their ruling to prosecutors, who have 30 days to bring the case before Thailand's Constitutional Court. If the case goes to court and the court finds the officials guilty, Thai law requires that the parties be disbanded.
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