IRAQ: A United Nations official says Iraqi militias are recruiting children to kidnap, kill, and even serve as suicide bombers. The U.N. special representative for children and armed conflict (Radhika Coomaraswamy) said Friday that only 50 percent of Iraq's primary school-age children are in school. She said increasing numbers of children are being recruited to work for insurgent groups, where they become what she called the "silent victims of the continued violence." Meanwhile, the U.S. military says an explosion that started a huge fire at an oil pipeline south of Baghdad Friday was an accident.
TURKEY - KURDS: Turkish military officials have confirmed launching attacks on suspected Kurdish rebel bases inside northern Iraq. The military says its warplanes and artillery targeted Kurdish positions along the Turkish border with Iraq in an operation that began Friday evening and lasted through today. The attacks are the latest in a series of military strikes Ankara has launched this year against the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Turkey accuses the PKK of using strongholds in northern Iraq to launch attacks. The PKK has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's mainly Kurdish southeast for nearly 25 years.
SYRIA - ISRAEL - TURKEY: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in Syria today in an effort to mediate possible peace talks between that country and Israel. Mr. Erdogan told reporters before leaving for Damascus that Turkey can make a "positive contribution" in forging peace between the two nations, as well between the Israelis and Palestinians. Syrian President Bashar Assad said earlier this week that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to return the Golan Heights back to Damascus in return for peace. Mr. Assad says that Turkey relayed Mr. Olmert's offer to him.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Medical personnel in the Gaza Strip say a 14-year-old Palestinian girl has been killed during an Israeli raid in the Gaza Strip today. The raid began before dawn, when Israeli troops entered the northern town of Beit Lahiya. Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says no progress was achieved during his recent meeting with U.S. President George Bush on the Mideast peace process. Mr. Abbas was in Washington this week for talks with Mr. Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
AFGHANISTAN VIOLENCE: Reports from Afghanistan say at least three policemen died in bomb attacks today. Officials say a roadside bomb in southern Ghazni province killed at least two officers, destroyed a police vehicle, and wounded several other people. A similar explosion took place in western Farah province, where one policeman died and at least one other was wounded. No one has claimed responsibility for either attack, but Afghan officials blame Taliban forces. These were the latest in a series of attacks on Afghan police, who are sometimes seen as less well-trained than other security forces.
US - NOKOR - SYRIA: The White House says newly released intelligence about alleged nuclear cooperation between Syria and North Korea may force Pyongyang to make a long-awaited disclosure of its nuclear activities. On Thursday, the Bush administration unveiled evidence it said proves that North Korea was helping Syria build a nuclear reactor intended for non-peaceful purposes. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Friday it is taking the intelligence seriously and will investigate the matter. But Mohamad ElBaradei criticized the United States for not sharing the information with his agency earlier.
CHINA - TIBET: Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, says he welcomes China's offer to hold talks with his envoys, but only if the talks are serious. The exiled Buddhist leader was questioned about China's recent statement in New Delhi today. He said he welcomed the prospect of discussions about problems in Tibet. It would be the first such meeting since violent protests in Tibet last month. China said Friday that its officials have agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama's representatives. Also Friday, Tibetan exile prime minister Samdhong Rinpoche said the Tibetan government-in-exile maintained contacts with China throughout the protests.
OLYMPIC TORCH: The Japanese leg of the Beijing Summer Olympics torch relay has ended amid protests and scuffles, despite tight security. Hundreds of Japanese police in uniforms and track suits ran alongside torch bearers and Chinese attendants (in blue and white track suits) through the streets of the northern city of Nagano today. The 19-kilometer route was lined by more than three-thousand police, Chinese supporters waving Chinese flags, and some Japanese protesters holding Tibetan flags. Some spectators ran behind barricades in pace with the torch. About 80 torchbearers carried the flame.
BURMA - REFERENDUM: Burma's pro-democracy party says intimidation and violence are being used against opponents of the military-backed constitution that will be voted on next month. Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy said in a statement Friday that several of its members and activists who oppose the proposed constitution have been severely beaten by unidentified assailants. The statement said the assaults were reported to authorities, but police took no action to investigate.
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