BURMA: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says Burma's top leader has agreed to allow all foreign aid workers into the country to help millions of cyclone survivors. Mr. Ban made the announcement after more than two hours of talks with General Than Shwe in Burma's remote capital, Naypyidaw today. The U.N. chief said he believes the agreement marks a breakthrough in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. Burma's military government had previously refused to allow most foreign aid workers to stage a full-scale relief effort in the country. Mr. Ban toured Burma's cyclone-ravaged Irrawaddy Delta Thursday, flying over some of the worst-hit areas and stopping at relief camps.
CHINA QUAKE: A Chinese provincial leader says it will take up to three years to reconstruct areas of southwestern China devastated in last week's deadly earthquake. The Vice Governor of hard-hit Sichuan province Li Chengyun said in Beijing today that regional officials aim to rebuild towns and infrastructure in the disaster zone. But he said the priority now is rescuing anyone still trapped under the rubble, as well as preventing disease in the affected areas. Li said the death toll from the May 12th quake is now more than 55-thousand. Officials say nearly 30-thousand others are still missing.
RUSSIA - CHINA: Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has arrived in Beijing for two days of talks on trade and international issues. Mr. Medvedev is scheduled to meet today with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Officials from both countries say they expect the two leaders to sign an agreement outlining a strategic partnership. Mr. Medvedev is also set to hold talks with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and speak at Peking University. Russia and China have been trying to strengthen political ties as they seek to counter U.S. dominance in international affairs.
INDIA - MISSILE: India has test fired a short-range ballistic missile, just two days after completing a new round of peace talks with neighboring Pakistan. Indian defense officials say the Prithvi missile was launched today from Chandipur in the eastern state of Orissa and that the test was successful. The Indian-built Prithvi is a surface-to-surface missile with a range of up to 250 kilometers. It can carry a payload of one-thousand kilograms and can be equipped with a nuclear warhead. India and Pakistan routinely conduct missile tests, but usually inform each other of their plans.
IRAQ: The top U.S. commander in Iraq says he expects to recommend further U.S. troop withdrawals before he leaves his post in September. General David Petraeus made the comment Thursday during a Senate hearing on his nomination to lead the U.S. Central Command. Petraeus did not specify how many troops could be withdrawn from Iraq. But Petraeus said he will make a recommendation after a 45-day assessment period scheduled for July that will follow current troop withdrawals. In Iraq, the U.S. military said more than 140 suspected criminals turned themselves in to U.S. and Iraqi forces in the town of Balad, north of Baghdad.
ISRAEL - OLMERT: Israeli police have questioned Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the second time this month as part of a corruption investigation against him. Anti-fraud investigators met with Mr. Olmert for about an hour today at his Jerusalem residence. Police did not disclose any details. Prosecutors accuse Mr. Olmert of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from U.S. businessman Morris Talansky before Mr. Olmert became prime minister. The prime minister had previously faced police questions on May second. Police are trying to determine whether Mr. Olmert gave any favors to Talansky for the payments.
US POLITICS: The presumptive Republican party nominee for the U.S. presidency, John McCain, has rejected the endorsement of a preacher criticized for his statements about Jews. U.S. media reported Thursday that John Hagee, a prominent evangelical leader, told his congregation that Adolf Hitler had fulfilled a biblical prophecy by pushing Jews out of Europe and into Israel. McCain quickly distanced himself from the minister, calling the remarks "deeply offensive and indefensible." Later today, McCain is expected to give select media members a three hour glimpse at his medical records, amid concerns about his health.
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