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Three Americans, Betancourt Rescued from Colombian Rebels


COLOMBIA - HOSTAGES: Colombia's military has rescued French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American defense contractors from leftist FARC rebels who held them for years in secret jungle camps.Eleven other hostages were freed Wednesday in a rescue operation that involved intelligence officials who had infiltrated the rebel unit in charge of the hostages. Officials say not a single shot was fired during the rescue.Betancourt, who was seized in 2002 while campaigning for the Colombian presidency, was later reunited with her mother and husband at a military airport in Bogota. She thanked God, the Colombian military and President Alvaro Uribe for securing the hostages' release, which she described as a "perfect operation."

REACT: COLOMBIA - HOSTAGES: The international community has welcomed the rescue of French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, three American defense contractors and 11 other hostages after years of captivity in the Colombian jungle.United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued a statement Wednesday saying those and many other hostages still held captive in Colombia have endured years of hardship. He called on leftist FARC guerrillas to "immediately and unconditionally" free the remaining hostages.U.S. President George Bush congratulated his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, in a phone conversation following Wednesday's rescue.

McCAIN - COLOMBIA - NEXICO: U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain has arrived in Mexico in advance of today's talks with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. McCain arrived in the capital of Mexico City late Wednesday from Colombia, hours after Colombian military forces pulled a daring mission to rescue 15 hostages from leftist FARC guerillas, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three U.S. military contractors.The presumptive Republican nominee released a statement saying Colombian President Felipe Uribe informed him about the planned operation during their meeting Tuesday evening.

ZIMBABWE: A U.S. draft resolution is being circulated at the United Nations that calls for new travel and financial sanctions against Zimbabwe's government in response to that nation's political crisis.A copy of the draft resolution obtained by VOA calls for freezing the assets and restricting the travel of President Robert Mugabe and 11 other top Zimbabwe government officials. The proposed resolution also seeks to expand an arms embargo against the government.Zimbabwe was plagued by violence in the weeks before last week's presidential run-off vote. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai dropped out of the election days before the vote, citing violence against his supporters.

SOKOR - UN CHIEF: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is visiting his home country, South Korea, for the first time since he took the top U.N. post 18 months ago.South Korean Prime Minister Han Seung-soo greeted Mr. Ban when he arrived in Seoul early today.The U.N. chief said he was "happy" and "filled with deep emotion" to return to his homeland.His visit includes meetings with South Korea's president, Lee Myung-bak, and other top officials, speeches and a trip to his hometown.Mr. Ban served as South Korea's foreign minister before becoming the U.N. chief.

SOKOR - US BEEF: South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says it is time to end what he describes as illegal and violent demonstrations over his government's decision to resume imports of U.S. beef.Speaking to members of his ruling Grand National Party in Seoul today, Mr. Lee said "law and order have been ignored" while the country's economic problems have worsened.The president says it is time to for South Koreans to carry a "torchlight" for economic revival, a reference to the massive candlelight protests over the agreement reached in April with the U.S. The protests turned violent after the initial sale of American beef in the country.

CHINA - G-8 - CLIMATE CHANGE: China says it is prepared to discuss moderate goals to combat climate change at next week's summit of leaders from the world's eight leading industrialized nations.Su Wei, the head of China's office responsible for dealing with climate change, says Chinese President Hu Jintao is prepared to hold talks with the Group of Eight leaders on short and medium-term actions to reduce greenhouse gases. But the official says it is up to developed nations, such as the United States, to take the lead in cutting emissions and transferring technology to developing countries.Climate change will be at the top of the agenda at the two-day G8summit, which will convene Monday in the northern Japanese city of Hokkaido.

PHILIPPINES - BLAST: Philippine military officials say at least three people have been killed and 11 others wounded in a grenade attack by suspected communist insurgents in the country's south.Authorities said rebels on motorcycles threw the grenade into a bakery in Nabunturan town before dawn today.A military spokesman said authorities believe New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas were behind the attack. Officials suspect it was a response to the shop owner's failure to pay extortion money, known as "revolutionary taxes," to the rebels.The roughly five thousand-member New People's Army has been waging a Maoist rebellion in the region for 39 years and is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

OIL PRICES: Worldwide oil prices have risen above 144 dollars a barrel for the first time during early trading in Asia today. Analysts say a weak U.S. dollar, concerns about possible military action against Iran over its nuclear program, and lower stockpiles of crude oil in the United States are triggering the increase in oil prices.Iranian Oil Minister Gholam Hossein Nozari says any attack on Iran would cause further turmoil in the already volatile crude oil market.Nozari made the comment Wednesday in Spain on the sidelines of the World Petroleum Congress. He said Iran would react fiercely if attacked, but would continue to supply oil to the world market.

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