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Rice Meets North Korean Counterpart in Six-Party Talks on North Korea


NOKOR NUCLEAR: Foreign ministers from the six nations involved in the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks have ended their long-anticipated meeting today in Singapore.U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice greeted Pak Ui-chun, her North Korean counterpart, at the start of today's meeting on the sidelines of a regional Asian forum (the Association of South East Asian Nations). It was Rice's first face-to-face meeting with Pak.Rice told reporters after the session that it was "a good meeting, no surprises."Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi described the talks as "quite significant" in opening remarks, because it shows the six nations have the political will to move the process forward.

OBAMA - MIDEAST: U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has praised Israel as a "miracle that has blossomed" while meeting with top Israeli officials.Senator Obama met today with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.Officials say the talks focused on the peace process and regional security issues, including Iran. Both the U.S. and Israel are concerned about Iran's nuclear enrichment program, and Iran has threatened to destroy Israel in the past.Obama also met with Israeli President Shimon Peres and laid a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial.

MCCAIN - IRAQ: U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain says if he becomes president U.S. troops would come home from Iraq with "honor" and "victory."At a town hall meeting in Rochester (in the U.S. state of) New Hampshire Tuesday, McCain accused his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, of working to reverse U.S. gains in Iraq by setting troop withdrawal dates.McCain said he also plans to withdraw troops, but that under his leadership, they would come home in victory.McCain also criticized Obama for opposing the U.S. troop surge in Iraq that began last year.

IRAN NUCLEAR: Iran's president says his country will not back down in the face of international pressure to suspend sensitive nuclear activities.Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed Iran will continue to pursue nuclear technology despite the efforts of what he called oppressive powers.His comments came during a speech today that was broadcast on Iranian television.Earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Iran could face additional sanctions if it does not suspend uranium enrichment.Rice said Iran failed to give a serious response to a package of incentives during nuclear talks with world powers in Geneva Saturday.

PAKISTAN - DISAPPEARANCES: An international human rights group wants Pakistan's new government to provide information about hundreds of people who have disappeared during the country's war on terror.Amnesty International says it has evidence to support claims by Pakistani organizations that at least 500 people, including a 9-year-old boy, have been taken into custody by the country's security forces and remain missing.Today Amnesty called for Pakistan's government to investigate the disappearances, charging some of those taken into custody have been tortured.

US - BURMA - GEMS: Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate have passed legislation that completely bans the importation of gems from Burma into the United States.The legislation is aimed at keeping all Burmese gems, including rubies and jade, from entering the U.S. through a third country, closing a loophole in a previous law.The bill also makes Burma's ruling military officials and their families ineligible for visas to the United States.Burma is one of the main producers of jade and other gems, as well as the source of up to 90 percent of the world's rubies. Gem auctions are a major revenue earner for Burma's military government.

ASEAN - BURMA: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the southeast Asian regional bloc has an important role to play in pushing Burma towards democracy.Attending the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Singapore today, Rice says the group can address the repression of Burma's democracy movement, which she calls the root cause of Burma's "grave problem."She says it is in ASEAN's interest to convince Burma's ruling military rulers to free its political prisoners and open a dialogue with pro-democracy leaders.

ZIMBABWE: Zimbabwe's state-run newspaper is reporting that reconciliation talks between the ruling party and the main opposition will now begin Thursday in South Africa.Today's edition of "The Herald" quotes Zimbabwe Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying representatives of both President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change are expected in South Africa today to prepare for the talks. South African presidential spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga said preliminary talks have already begun but the main talks would begin in earnest Thursday.T

PHILIPPINES - SOMALIA: A Philippine official says pirates off the coast of Somalia have seized a cargo ship with 20 Philippine crew members.Foreign Ministry spokesman Estaban Conejos says the cargo ship Stella Maris was hijacked Sunday. He says the Japanese owner of the ship has been in contact with the crew, and reports they are safe.Conejos says Manila will not pay any ransom to the pirates to free the crew members. Pirate attacks are common in the waters off Somalia. The country lacks a strong central government, enabling pirates to operate almost freely.

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