BURMA: The United States says it is still waiting for Burma's military government to allow a U.S. military plane to deliver emergency aid to survivors of last week's cyclone that killed more than 22-thousand people. Earlier today , a spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Bangkok, said Burma had granted approval for the relief delivery, but later in the day approval for U.S. military C-130s loaded with relief goods was less certain. The U.S. ambassador to Thailand, Eric John, says he does not know whether the decision was rescinded or if there was a miscommunication.
OLYMPIC TORCH: A team of Chinese climbers carrying the Olympic flame has reached the summit of Mount Everest. China's official Xinhua news agency reported the team began its six-hour climb up the world's tallest mountain on Wednesday, after heavy snowfall forced a two day delay. Television cameras showed the climbers struggling slightly against gusting winds and a light mist of snow as they reached the summit today. Team members lit the torch and unfurled banners of the Olympic rings as they entered the final stage of their climb.
CHINA - TIBET - DALAI LAMA: Envoys for the Dalai Lama say China is willing to hold further talks about the situation in Tibet, despite major differences between the two sides. A spokesman for the Tibet government-in-exile, Thubten Samphel, tells VOA that during the recent talks in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen, each side made "concrete proposals." Samphel says the mood at the talks was different from previous meetings and notes that China's representatives appeared willing to address concerns of Tibetans living under Chinese rule.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: A U.S. diplomat is in North Korea to conduct another round of talks aimed at convincing the isolated regime to fully declare its nuclear activities. The U.S. embassy in Seoul says Sung Kim led a negotiating team into North Korea today over the heavily militarized border that separates the communist nation from democratic South Korea. Kim, who heads the U.S. State Department's Korea section, is making his second visit to North Korea in as many weeks. He is hoping to resolve a dispute over Pyongyang's failure to meet a December 31st deadline to reveal all of its nuclear activities under a six-nation agreement.
NOKOR - US - FOOD: North Korea says it is pleased with recent talks with a visiting U.S. delegation about possible food aid for the impoverished regime. State media said a U.S. team visited the country this week but did not provide details. Observers say North Korea is facing a humanitarian crisis if quick action is not taken by Pyongyang and international donors. The world body's Food and Agricultural Organization says severe flooding last August has caused a shortfall of nearly two million tons of rice and wheat.
US - SYRIA:
President George Bush says he is extending sanctions on Syria for a year, following Washington's charge that Damascus was building a nuclear reactor with North Korea's help. Mr. Bush announced the move Wednesday in an executive order and a message to the U.S. Congress. The president said he extended the sanctions to deal with what he called threats by Syria's government to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States.
IRAQ - GUANTANAMO BOMBER: The U.S. military says a Kuwaiti man who carried out a recent suicide bombing in Iraq was a former detainee at the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. A military spokesman says Abdallah Salih al-Ajmi was one of three suicide bombers who struck the northern Iraqi city of Mosul last month. The attacks killed seven people. The U.S. Defense Department says at least 13 terrorism suspects whom it released from the prison later returned to combat. U.S. authorities transferred Ajmi from Guantanamo to Kuwaiti custody in 2005.
LEBANON - HEZBOLLAH: Supporters of the Hezbollah-led opposition in Lebanon continued anti-government protests today, blocking roads in Beirut with burning tires and other barricades. Among the roads blocked was a major route to Beirut's international airport, resulting in a suspension of some flights. On Wednesday, Lebanon's long-running political crisis erupted into street battles between gunmen loyal to Hezbollah and supporters of the Western-backed ruling coalition. The two sides exchanged gunfire in parts of Beirut. At least 10 people were injured.
RUSSIA POLITICS: The Russian parliament has confirmed Vladimir Putin as prime minister - one day after Dmitri Medvedev was inaugurated as the country's president. In a speech to parliament today, Mr. Putin said his priority will be rebuilding the economy by reducing inflation. He also pledged to cut taxes on the oil industry. On Wednesday, Mr. Medvedev pledged to focus on Russia's economic woes and promised to protect civil liberties. In Washington, U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said the White House expects current Russian foreign policy to continue.
ISRAEL - 60TH ANNIVERSARY: Celebrations to mark Israel's 60th anniversary continue today, with military displays taking place throughout the country. Israel's air force is holding air shows over 22 cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Israeli paratroopers are performing in various cities, and Israel's navy is putting on a boat display along the Mediterranean coastline. Israel started the holiday Wednesday evening after a day of remembrance for Israel's fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism. Israel declared independence on May 14th, 1948, and has since fought six wars with neighboring Arab states.
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