IRAN - US: A senior U.S. envoy is, for the first time, taking part in talks with Iran about
its nuclear program today in GenevaUnder Secretary of
State William Burns joined Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili and
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana for the closed-door meeting.
Officials from Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China were also due to
attend.An Iranian official told reporters as the talks began that there
is no chance his country would freeze its uranium enrichment program -- a key
demand of Western powers. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said
Friday sending Burns to the talks is a "strong signal" the United States is
serious about diplomacy with Tehran.
OBAMA - AFGHANISTAN: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is in Afghanistan, at the
start of an international tour aimed at bolstering his foreign policy
credentials.A spokesman said Senator Obama arrived today Kabul, where he is expected to meet with Afghan President
Hamid Karzai and confer with U.S. military leaders.Obama will also meet
with American military leaders when his tour takes him to Iraq.His
Republican rival, Senator John McCain, has praised Obama for making the overseas
trip but has criticized him for making policy statements on Iraq and Afghanistan
AUSTRALIA - POPE: Pope Benedict has apologized for a sexual abuse scandal involving Catholic
clergy in Australia, and has called for those responsible to be brought to
justice.At a mass in Sydney today, the Pope said the
behavior of pedophile priests was "evil" and a grave betrayal of trust that has
brought great shame to the Catholic Church. Support groups for victims
in Australia say the apology was not sufficient and have demanded "appropriate"
levels of financial compensation.The group Broken Rites says at least
107 Australian clergy have been convicted of sexual abuse, but campaigners
insisted that there could be thousands of victims because only a few cases ever
go to court.
IRAQ: The Iraqi Parliament has voted to accept the return of six Sunni ministers to
the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, giving a boost to
the nation's reconciliation.The parliament voted today
to add the ministers to the cabinet to fill openings created when a bloc of
Shiites left the government last year. The Sunni bloc - known as the Iraqi
Accordance Front - had also withdrawn from the government last year after a
series of political disputes.Meanwhile, Iraqi officials say British
Prime Minister Gordon Brown arrived in Baghdad today for talks with Iraqi Prime
Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other leaders.
NEPAL ELECTION: Lawmakers in Nepal are voting for the country's first president following the
abolition of the Hindu monarchy.The country's three major political
parties have failed to reach a consensus on who should occupy the ceremonial
office.The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist, which won the most seats in
April's election, has selected Ramraja Prasad Singh for the position.
The Nepali Congress party wants former Prime Minister Girija Prasad
Koirala, and Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist chose their
leader, Madhav Kumar Nepal, for the post.
CAMBODIA - THAILAND: Cambodia and Thailand sent military reinforcements to their shared border today, as a standoff over an ancient Hindu temple entered its fifth
day.The standoff at the Preah Vihear temple began Tuesday, when Thai
soldiers crossed the border after Cambodian authorities arrested three activists
for entering the country illegally to reach the ancient temple. The activists
have since been released to Thai authoritiesSenior officials of the two
countries have agreed to meet in the next few days to discuss the issue, but
most Cambodian villagers living nearby have already fled their homes.
SUDAN - ARAB LEAGUE: Arab foreign ministers are set to hold an emergency meeting in (the Egyptian
capital) Cairo Saturday to discuss the latest developments in relations
between Sudan and the international community.Arab League Secretary
General Amr Mussa also has announced plans to travel to the Sudanese capital,
Khartoum, Sunday, following the emergency summit.Sudanese government
officials said they requested the Arab League meeting in order to show that the
country's judicial system is capable of addressing alleged crimes in (the
western region of) Darfur.
UN FOOD: U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon says the rising costs of food and fuel threaten
(Millennium Development) goals of cutting poverty, hunger and disease worldwide
in half by 2015.The U.N. secretary-general told the General Assembly it
will cost between 25 and 40 billion dollars each year to boost agricultural
production and assist farmers worldwide. Mr. Ban said that the international
community must take steps to ensure that vulnerable populations are not left
without help. He warned that unless action is taken, more than 100
million people around the world could slide into hunger.
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