MIDEAST - QUARTET: World powers are calling on Arab states to honor promises of support for the Palestinians in their peace talks with Israel. Members of the Mideast Quartet issued a statement today in London urging Arab states to fulfill their political and financial roles in support of the peace process. The Quartet includes the U.S, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Ahead of the Quartet meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Arab countries that have resources to help build a Palestinian state should look at how much they can offer, rather than how little.
ZIMBABWE: The process of verifying results from Zimbabwe's presidential election resumes today. Zimbabwe's electoral commission met with representatives of President Robert Mugabe and his main challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai, in Harare Thursday to check the official vote tallies against those compiled by the candidates' parties. Election officials informed the candidates that Mr. Tsvangirai is beating the president 47 to 43 percent in the March 29th vote -- short of the majority needed to avoid a run-off. But a spokesman for Mr. Tsvangirai's party, the Movement for Democratic Change, says they do not agree with the commission's figures.
CHINA - OLYMPICS: Today's leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay in Hong Kong has ended without any of the chaotic demonstrations that marred the torch's international journey. The torch arrived at the territory's Golden Bauhinia Square after an eight-hour relay that involved hundreds of torch bearers who carried it over long stretches of rain-soaked highways and bridges. The flame was also ferried by traditional dragon boats across the Hong Kong's famous harbor. Thousands of pro-Chinese spectators, many of them visiting from the mainland, lined the relay route cheering and waving national flags.
CHINA - VIRUS: Chinese state-run media says another child has died from an intestinal virus outbreak in eastern China, bringing the death toll to 21. Xinhua news agency says all the victims lived in Fuyang City in Anhui province. The city is the epicenter of an outbreak of enterovirus 71 that has now sickened more than 29-hundred children since March. The outbreak was not reported until last week. The young victims' symptoms include fever, blisters, ulcers in the mouth, and rashes on the hands and feet. Xinhua says more than 700 remain hospitalized, 36 of them in serious condition.
US - BURMA: U.S. President George Bush has announced an expansion of sanctions on Burmese companies whose earnings support the country's military rulers. Mr. Bush said Thursday that he ordered the U.S. Treasury Department to freeze the assets of state-owned Burmese firms. The executive order names three companies that produce timber, gems and pearls. The United States tightened sanctions on Burmese leaders and firms after the military government's crackdown last year on pro-democracy demonstrations.
PHILIPPINES - RICE: The Philippine government is taking steps to boost domestic production of rice with the aim of making the nation less dependent on foreign imports. Agricultural Secretary Arthur Yap signed an deal with the International Rice Research Institute today to assist farmers in a variety of methods, such as irrigation and the use of high-yield hybrid rice varieties. The agreement also provides credit support for farmers, and for the construction of storage facilities to address the Philippines' high loss of rice crops through spoilage.
US FOOD AID: U.S. President George Bush has called on the U.S. Congress to approve spending 770 million dollars to help alleviate food shortages and rising prices around the world. The president said Thursday that in some of the world's poorest countries, higher prices can mean the difference between getting a daily meal or going without food. President Bush wants to spend more on agricultural development programs to help farmers grow more food, and change the way food aid is delivered by buying more from farmers in the developing world.
NEPAL - US: The U.S. embassy in Nepal says a U.S. official has met the leader of Nepal's Maoist movement, despite the former rebels still being listed by Washington as a terrorist group. The embassy says U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Nancy Powell met Thursday with Maoist chief Prachanda (whose real name is Pushpa Kamal Dahal). It was the first official meeting between the U.S. and the Maoists since the U.S. placed them on a list of terrorist organizations in 2003. The Maoists signed a peace deal with the government in 2006 and won the most seats in last month's elections for a special assembly to draft a new constitution.
TURKEY - IRAQ - KURDS: Turkish state media say Turkish warplanes have raided Kurdish rebel bases in northern Iraq as part of ongoing operations against the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. The Anatolia news agency says Turkish aircraft hit rebel targets in the Qandil area of northern Iraq late Thursday and early today. It is the second such air operation by the Turkish military in a week. Turkish warplanes have been hitting PKK positions in northern Iraq since mid-December. Ankara accuses the PKK of using northern Iraq as a base to launch deadly raids into southeastern Turkey.
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