OBAMA - EUROPE: U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is in Berlin, where he will meet with German leaders and deliver an open-air speech on trans-Atlantic relations later today.The Democratic senator arrived today after a visit to Israel as part of his closely-followed, election-year foreign tour. Obama will meet in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders. He is expected to press Chancellor Merkel to increase Germany's troop numbers in Afghanistan. Wednesday, Ms. Merkel said she would make it clear Germany is not shirking its responsibilities, but that the nation also has its limits.Obama concluded his visit to the Middle East earlier today with a visit to Judaism's holiest site, Jerusalem's Western Wall.NOKOR - NUCLEAR: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says it is now up to North Korea to accept the terms of a process to verify its declaration of its nuclear activities.Rice and the foreign ministers of the other five nations involved in the North Korean nuclear disarmament talks met Wednesday in Singapore at the sidelines of a regional Asian forum (Association of South East Asian Nations). She told reporters today that North Korean officials are under no illusions that "the ball is in their court" (it is now up to them) to respond positively to a draft proposal to verify last month's declaration. Rice said no one is going to trust any of Pyongyang's claims, especially about how much plutonium it had produced.
ASEAN FORUM: Disaster relief, border conflicts and a diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea were on the agenda at today's meeting of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum in Singapore.The foreign ministers reached an agreement calling for cooperation between the member states in responding to a natural disaster, including the use of military assets. The accord was drafted after two deadly regional disasters in May -- a massive earthquake in southwest China, and Cyclone Nargis, which struck Burma's Irrawaddy delta.The pact includes approval of a joint U.S.-Philippine military exercise in 2009 that will establish procedures for such cooperation.
US - BURMA - MALAYSIA: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Burma is out of step with its regional Asian neighbors on the issues of democracy and human rights.Rice also denounced Burma's military rulers for initially refusing international aid after a deadly cyclone in May. She praised ASEAN for persuading Burma to eventually accept the assistance.She made the comments to reporters today in Singapore, where she is attending the ASEAN Regional Forum.The chief U.S. diplomat called the Burmese junta's so-called roadmap to democracy a "a kind of mockery" that is going nowhere.
KARADZIC ARREST: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has praised the arrest of former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic and says she hopes his former military chief Ratko Mladic is captured next.Speaking to reporters today during a tour of Asia, Rice called the arrest a step forward for Serbia to establish its European identity. She urged Europe to speed up efforts to normalize relations with the nation.On Wednesday, Karadzic's lawyer said he believes Karadzic will be cleared of genocide charges. The attorney says Karadzic willconduct his own defense at the United Nations war crimes tribunal in the Hague. Serbian security officials arrested Karadzic Monday in Belgrade.
PAKISTAN - US - TERRORISM: The Bush administration is proposing using hundreds of millions of dollars of aid now dedicated to funding anti-terrorism programs in Pakistan to help Pakistan upgrade its fleet of aging fighter jets. The proposal from the U.S. State Department will have to be approved by U.S. lawmakers, and comes as new Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani prepares to visit Washington next week. Pakistan's fleet of U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets have not traditionally been used in counter-terrorism operations. The proposal would allocate almost 230-million-dollars -- two-thirds of U.S. aid to Pakistan -- to make improvements to the planes, which were built in the 1980s.
AFGHANISTAN - VIOLENCE: NATO and Afghan forces are battling militants for a second day as they try to
regain control of a remote district in southern Afghanistan.NATO and
Afghan officials say several Taliban militants have been killed since they
launched the operation Wednesday in Ghazni province.Taliban militants
took over the Ajristan district on Monday, the latest in a series of strikes
targeting remote areas.U.S. commanders have been asking for three more
combat brigades, or about 10-thousand troops, to help confront rising violence
SRI LANKA - VIOLENCE: Sri Lanka's military says airstrikes have targeted a rebel training base in the northern part of the country.Military officials say pilots confirmed they successfully hit the Tamil Tiger camp in the Mullaittivu area today.Officials say at least 29 Tamil Tiger rebels have been killed during fighting in northern Sri Lanka this week, but both sides claim death tolls that are rarely possible to independently validate. The rebel group said Tuesday it would uphold a unilateral cease-fire for 10 days starting Saturday during the 15th summit of the eight-nation group SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
ISRAEL - IRAN - US: A top Israeli military official says "there is no doubt" the preferred way to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is through diplomacy.Israeli Army Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, in Washington for meetings with top diplomatic and military officials, also says both Israel and the U.S. understand they must prepare for "all options."General Ashkenazi spoke with U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and State Department officials Wednesday. He is scheduled to meet today with the top U.S. military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen.
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