CHINA - QUAKE: Chinese officials have ordered thousands of people to evacuate a village near the epicenter of Monday's earthquake, amid fears that a nearby lake could flood the area. China's official Xinhua news agency said today that landslides set off by the quake have blocked parts of the Qingzhu River, sparking fears that backed-up water will burst the banks of a nearby lake and inundate the area. VOA reporter Daniel Schearf was in the ruined city of Beichuan in Sichuan and saw hundreds of people running for higher ground. He said another journalist warned him to get to high ground fast.
BURMA: Burma took diplomats on a controlled tour of the storm-ravaged Irrawaddy delta today following international complaints the ruling military is blocking aid groups from distributing relief supplies. Burma's state media says the death toll from Cyclone Nargis has reached almost 78-thousand, and that another 56-thousand people are missing. The toll, released Friday, almost doubles earlier Burmese figures. U.S. and other officials say the death toll could exceed 100-thousand. French officials said today they are in negotiations with Burma's leadership for permission for a navy ship (Mistral) loaded with supplies to dock.
BUSH - MIDEAST: U.S. President George Bush arrived in Egypt today for talks with regional leaders and to attend a meeting of the World Economic Forum. Mr. Bush plans to meet at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah. He will also hold talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Friday, in Saudi Arabia, President Bush met with King Abdullah and requested Riyadh increase oil production, as fuel prices reach record levels. Saudi Arabia denied the request.
IRAN - OIL: Iran says a rise in oil production by OPEC as requested by the United States will not affect record prices in a market already saturated with oil. Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari told reporters today in Tehran that increasing production will only increase oil inventories. On Friday, Saudi Arabia rejected a request by U.S. President George Bush for Riyadh to raise oil production in hopes of controlling soaring gas prices. Iran is OPEC's second-largest oil producer after Saudi Arabia. Oil prices reached a record high of nearly 128-dollars per barrel Friday.
LEBANON: Lebanon's political leaders are holding high-level talks aimed at pulling Lebanon back from the brink of a new civil war. The leaders are meeting today at a hotel in Qatar's capital, Doha. Qatar's emir (Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani) officially opened the talks Friday, bringing together officials from Lebanon's pro-Western government and Hezbollah-led opposition. He stressed the need for the rivals to reach an agreement. Also Friday, U.S. officials said Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has canceled a meeting with President George Bush that had been scheduled for Sunday in Egypt.
PAK - AFGHAN - KIDNAP:
Pakistani officials say suspected Taliban militants have freed Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan, after holding him for more than three months. The officials say Tariq Azizuddin was released unharmed today but declined to discuss the circumstances of his release. Azizuddin, his driver and his bodyguard were kidnapped in February in Pakistan's Khyber tribal region bordering Afghanistan, a day after authorities announced the arrest of a key Taliban commander (Mullah Mansoor Dadullah).
AFGHAN - VIOLENCE: Afghan officials say at least one civilian and at least nine militants have been killed in a series of clashes, air strikes and bomb blasts. In the southern province of Kandahar today, a remote-controlled bomb attached to a bicycle exploded as a police vehicle passed by. Police say the blast killed a child and wounded another civilian. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but Kandahar is a Taliban stronghold. In the western province of Farah, the Afghan army says at least seven militants were killed in air strikes during an Afghan and international military operation Friday.
US - NORTH KOREA: North Korea has welcomed a U.S. offer of food aid, saying the assistance will help ease its food shortage and help promote relations between the two foes. A statement today by the North's official Korean Central News Agency says the aid will, "to a certain extent," contribute to promoting understanding and confidence between people of the two countries. The United States announced Friday that it will provide 500-thousand tons of food aid to the Stalinist nation over the next year.
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