PAKISTAN: A car bomb outside a police station in Pakistan has killed at least three people in the northwestern city of Mardan. Police say they believe today's explosion came from a car parked next to the building. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman told reporters that the attack was revenge for the police killing of a militant leader. But he added that the Taliban remains committed to a cease-fire declared this week by Pakistani Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud. The Associated Press quotes the Taliban spokesman as saying today's attack was planned before Mehsud called for the cease-fire.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel has dismissed a six-month truce proposal from the Palestinian militant group Hamas. An Israeli government spokesman today suggested Hamas was only offering a cease-fire in order to recover and re-arm following recent fighting. Hamas officials told Egyptian mediators Thursday that they would agree to a six-month truce in the Gaza strip, followed by a truce in the West Bank. In exchange, Israel was to cease military action, and lift its blockade of Gaza. In violence today, Israeli military officials say Palestinian militants killed two Israeli security guards at a factory near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
US - NOKOR - SYRIA: The head of the United Nations nuclear agency is criticizing the United States for withholding intelligence the U.S. says shows North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor. In a statement released today, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei says he deplores the Bush administration's delay in providing the information. He also condemned Israel for destroying the suspected site during an airstrike last September, saying it "undermined" the verification process under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
CHINA - TIBET: China's state-run media says the government will meet with a private representative of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader. Xinhua news agency is reporting officials have agreed to the meeting after requests made by the Dalai Lama. According to Reuters news agency, a spokesman for the Tibetan icon says he has not received any communication from China about the meeting. The international community has been urging Beijing to hold talks with the Dalai Lama since China's crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet and other Tibetan areas last month.
CHINA - EU: The head of the European Commission says he is opposed to any boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympic games because of the ongoing crisis in Tibet. Jose Manuel Barroso expressed his views today after talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing. Mr. Barroso says he and Mr. Wen had frank discussions on Tibet, and that he hoped to "see positive developments soon." Tensions have grown between both sides since China's harsh crackdown of anti-government protesters in the last month. The European Parliament had urged EU leaders to boycott the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in August unless Chinese leaders hold talks with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
OLYMPIC TORCH: The official flame for the Beijing Summer Olympics has arrived in Japan ahead of Saturday's torch relay. A plane carrying the flame arrived today at a Tokyo airport. It was immediately taken under heavy security to the northern city of Nagano, the site of the torch relay. Nagano hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics. Thousands of police officers will be deployed along the relay route to prevent any incidents. Chinese residents and pro-Tibetan activists plan to demonstrate during the relay. Japan's chief Cabinet spokesman (Nobutaka Machimura) is appealing for calm, saying the event can take place in an atmosphere "where everyone can celebrate."
US - BURMA: The U.S. Senate voted unanimously Thursday to award Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi with the Congressional Gold Medal. The medal is the highest honor the U.S. Congress can bestow on a civilian. Lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives approved the award last December. Aung San Suu Kyi has been under house arrest for 12 of the last 18 years. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won elections in 1990, but the ruling military junta rejected the results. The 62-year-old democracy icon won the Nobel Peace Prize a year later.
IRAQ: Radical Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr says his recent call for "open war" is only against U.S. forces, not the Iraqi government. In a statement today, Sadr urged his Mahdi Army militia to stop the bloodshed against fellow Iraqis. Militias loyal to Sadr have been battling coalition and Iraqi forces in Baghdad's Sadr City district since late March. More than 300 people have been killed in those clashes. In violence overnight in Sadr City, Iraqi hospital officials say at least seven people were killed and more than 30 wounded. In at least one incident, the U.S. military said it targeted people seen planting roadside bombs.
IRAN ELECTIONS: Iranians are casting ballots in the country's second round of parliamentary elections, in which conservatives are expected to maintain or strengthen their majority. Voters in today's runoff are choosing among candidates for 82 seats in the 290-member legislature. Iran held the first round of parliamentary elections in March. In that vote, conservative candidates won a three-quarters majority, with at least 130 seats. Reformist candidates secured more than 30 seats, while independent candidates won the rest.
WORLD MALARIA DAY: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is set to begin a major initiative to fight malaria across Africa. Mr. Ban will announce the campaign in a video message today to mark World Malaria Day. The campaign will provide access to anti-malaria tools to all African nations by the end of 2010, including insecticide-treated bed nets and spraying insecticides in households. The mosquito-borne illness strikes between 300 to 500 million people every year, and kills about one million people. About 85-percent of all malaria cases are in the poorest areas of sub-Saharan Africa.
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