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Russians Remain in Gori; Call Georgia's Territorial Integrity 'Irrelevant'


GEORGIA: A series of explosions rocked the key Georgian city of Gori, amid reports more Russian troops were headed to the area. Georgian officials say more Russian forces were deploying in the city, despite earlier indications they were pulling out, in accordance with a French-brokered cease-fire agreement. Witnesses say Russian and Georgian forces faced-off at gunpoint at some checkpoints on the outskirts of the city. Georgian officials said Russian troops have also moved back into the Black Sea port city of Poti.

US - GEORGIA: U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will meet with officials in France today before heading to Tblisi in a show of support for Georgia, in its confrontation with Russia. Rice's trip comes as U.S. President George Bush has urged Russia to honor its commitment to a cease-fire and pull its forces out of Georgia. Rice is scheduled to meet with French diplomats in Paris. She is set to travel to Georgia on Friday. Rice told reporters Wednesday any violation of the cease-fire agreement would only serve to further isolate Russia from the international community.

PAKISTAN: Pakistani leaders are calling for political reconciliation as the nation celebrates its independence today. In a televised address marking Pakistan's 61st anniversary of independence from Britain, President Pervez Musharraf said the country needs political stability to fix its economic woes and combat terrorism. His sentiments were echoed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at a flag-raising ceremony in Islamabad today. Mr. Gilani told the crowd the newly installed coalition government is committed to reconciliation. But he also says the days of political repression and dictatorship had ended -- a veiled reference to Mr. Musharraf.

IRAN - TURKEY: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is due in Turkey today for two days of talks expected to focus partly on Tehran's disputed nuclear program. Iran's state news agency, IRNA, says Mr. Ahmadinejad is to meet with Turkey's President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks on issues of mutual interest and the latest regional and international developments. The visit will be President Ahmadinejad's first to neighboring Turkey since he took office in August 2005. Turkish officials have called Mr. Ahmadinejad's trip to Istanbul a "working visit."

KASHMIR - PROTEESTS: Thousands of Muslim protesters took to the streets of Indian Kashmir today to demand independence from Hindu-dominated India. The demonstrators defied a curfew as they filled the the streets of the main town of Srinagar in the dark, pre-dawn hours following allegations that security forces were breaking into houses and beating up the occupants. At least 21 people have been killed in clashes between Muslim separatists and Indian security forces that began on Monday.

MALAYSIA - POLITICS: Malaysia's ruling party has selected a local lawmaker to run against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a parliamentary by-election. Arif Shah Omar Shah will take on the former deputy prime minister in the August 26th vote in northern Penang state. Mr. Anwar is seeking the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat as part of an effort to topple the government of embattled Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Mr. Anwar leads a three-party coalition that ended the ruling National Front coalition's two-thirds-majority control of parliament in March elections.

CHINA - PROTESTS - OLYMPICS: A U.S. -based human rights group and western journalists say Chinese police have detained a Chinese activist who applied to demonstrate legally in Beijing during the Olympics. Human Rights Watch called on China's government Wednesday to release 58-year-old Ji Sizun immediately. Ji went to a Beijing police station last Friday to request a permit for a protest in one of Beijing's three designated protest parks. When Ji returned to the station on Monday to check on his application, security agents detained him and escorted him from the building.

SPORTS - OLYMPIC WRAP: It has been a big day for Asian countries at the Beijing Olympics, in the pool and in the gymnasium. Japan's Kosuke Kitajima became the first man to sweep both breaststroke events in consecutive Olympics, when he took the gold medal in the 200 meter event (in a time of 2:07.64 seconds) earlier today (Thursday). Kitajima set the world record in the 100-meter breaststroke Monday. China also won its first swimming gold medal of the games when its swimmers took first and second in the women's 200-meter butterfly. Liu Zige set a new world record (2:04.18 seconds) .

LEBANON - SYRIA: One day after agreeing to establish full diplomatic ties, Syria and Lebanon say they will work to properly define their common border. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese President Michel Suleiman issued a joint statement today after a second day of talks in the Syrian capital of Damascus. The border between Syria and Lebanon is poorly marked in some areas, and has been since the two countries gained independence more than 60 years ago. (News Updates)

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