CHINA - QUAKE: Chinese officials say the first rescue and relief troops have arrived at the epicenter of Monday's massive earthquake that has killed nearly 12-thousand people. The official Xinhua news agency says 13 hundred rescuers arrived today in Wenchuan county, at the center of the seven-point-nine magnitude earthquake. Wenchuan is located in southwestern Sichuan province and is home to more than 100-thousand people. The number of casualties there is still unknown. In Beijing today, a top disaster response official says the death toll in provinces and municipalities in western China was now at 11-thousand-921 people.
BURMA: Burma's military rulers have rejected growing international pressure to allow international aid workers into the country to help with cyclone recovery efforts. In comments carried today in the official "New Light of Myanmar" newspaper, Vice Admiral Soe Thein said Burma does not yet need skilled relief workers. The admiral said that the needs of the people from devastating Cyclone Nargis, which left some 62-thousand dead or missing, "have been fulfilled" as much as possible. The international community is already increasingly frustrated with Burma's military leaders and their response to the disaster.
BURMA SDBR: US AID: U.S. President George Bush has denounced Burma's military rulers for failing to act more quickly to accept international aid following last week's devastating cyclone. Mr. Bush told CBS News Radio Monday that the "world ought to be angry and condemn" Burma's rulers over their response to the cyclone. He said "there is no telling how many people have lost their lives" as a result of the Burmese government's slow response. The president said it was not good enough that Burma allowed the first U.S. military cargo plane carrying aid to land in Rangoon, 10 days after the storm hit.
INDONESIA - FUEL: Hundreds of students rallied for a second day in several cities across Indonesia today to protest a planned hike in fuel prices. The government is considering a fuel price rise of up to 30 percent. Authorities are watching the protests closely, because a similar price hike in 1998 sparked riots that contributed to the downfall of President Suharto. The plan is also facing mounting opposition from parliament, where most parties have turned against the price hike in a bid to win favor with voters ahead of elections next year.
LEBANON: Lebanon's army says it will now use force to stop the country's worst sectarian fighting since the civil war that ended in 1990. The army says, starting today, it will act to stop fighting between pro-government militias and opposition forces led by Hezbollah. So far, Lebanon's military has stayed out of the violence that began Wednesday in Beirut and has spread to other parts of the country. The fighting has killed at least 61 people and wounded about 200. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a joint statement with 10 nations Monday calling for an immediate end to the violence.
IRAQ: Iraqi officials say 11 militiamen have been killed and at least 19 wounded in clashes overnight with the U.S. military in Baghdad's Sadr City. The U.S. military has only confirmed today that troops killed three gunmen in separate incidents after being attacked multiple times. The fighting continues despite a cease-fire signed Monday by Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia is active in Sadr City. The U.S. military said Monday that its soldiers killed three gunmen who attacked patrols in Sadr City the previous night.
BUSH - MIDEAST: U.S. President George Bush heads to the Middle East today where he will continue pushing for a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Bush has said such a deal is possible before his presidency ends in January, although talks between the two sides have bogged down over various issues. President Bush begins his five-day trip to the region in Israel where he will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Mr. Olmert's fight against bribery accusations has disrupted the already faltering peace process. Mr. Bush will also go to Egypt, where he will meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
US POL: Voters in (the eastern U.S. state of) West Virginia cast ballots today in one of the last presidential primaries. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both campaigned in the state Monday. Senator Clinton is generally expected to win the contest, but with only 28 pledged delegates, West Virginia is not likely to have a big impact on the overall delegate count. Obama leads Clinton in both the delegate count and the race for so-called superdelegates. The superdelegates are the party officials and elected office-holders who are free to vote for either candidate at the party's nominating convention in Denver, Colorado in August.
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