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Iraq's al-Sadr Urges Rejection of US-Iraqi Deal


IRAQ: Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called on Iraq's parliament to reject a security agreement with the United States, as tens of thousands of his supporters rallied in Baghdad against the deal. The demonstrators chanted anti-U.S. slogans and waved Iraqi flags as they marched from the capital's Sadr City district to the central Mustansiriyah Square today. A Sadr aide read aloud a statement from the influential cleric, who urged Iraqi lawmakers not to vote for the proposed security deal. He said the agreement will not end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and will not give sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

WORLD ECONOMY: U.S. President George Bush is to meet today with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso for talks on the crumbling world economy. The European leaders say they will press for an overhaul of the global financial system during the talks outside Washington (at the Camp David presidential retreat). They are also expected to discuss a proposed emergency economic summit with leaders of the Group of Eight (including the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Canada, and Russia) and other nations.

US POLITICS: A new poll shows U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama leading his Republican rival, John McCain by four percentage points as the candidates battle for voters in traditionally Republican states. The public opinion poll (by Reuters, C-Span and Zogby) released today shows Senator Obama leading 48 to 44 percent among likely voters less than three weeks before the election. Both candidates campaign today in U.S. states that are key to winning the White House and historically support Republican presidential candidates.

CHINA - MEDIA: Foreign journalists and media monitoring groups have cautiously welcomed China's extension of relaxed rules for foreign journalists. The Beijing-based Foreign Correspondents' Club of China welcomed the new recognition of foreign reporters' rights to travel where they wish without prior permission and to interview anyone who is willing. Club president Jonathan Watts urged the Chinese government to ensure that local officials and police respect the new rules.

CHINA - TAINTED MILK: Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao says his government is partly responsible for the tainted milk scandal that has killed four infants and sickened 53 thousand throughout the country. In an interview in the U.S. publication "Science Magazine," Mr. Wen said the government was responsible for monitoring the industry at the core of the crisis. He told the magazine the production of raw milk, collection, transport, processing, formulation and manufactured goods all need to have clear standards and testing requirements.

CAMBODIA - THAILAND: Cambodian and Thai military commanders met on their disputed border today to discuss ways to avoid clashes, after deadly gunfights this week. Surrounded by dozens of soldiers in full combat gear, Cambodian Major General Srey Deok and Thai Colonel Chayan Huaysoongnern discussed how to prevent future flare-ups of violence. After their meeting, the two ate lunch together. A deadly gunfight between Cambodian and Thai soldiers erupted Wednesday along the disputed area near a centuries-old temple. Two Cambodian soldiers were killed in the shootout, and soldiers from each side were wounded.

NOKOR NUCLEAR: The United States says North Korea has again begun steps to disable its nuclear reactor. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Fridaythat North Korea has put all the seals back on the Yongbyon reactor and restored all surveillance equipment at the facility. He said Pyongyang also has removed additional fuel rods from the reactor, disabling it further than it was before the dispute with Washington. But he said the situation with the fuel reprocessing and fabrication facilities at Yongbyon has not yet returned to the status before the dispute.

PAKISTAN - CHINA: Pakistan's foreign minister says China has agreed to help Islamabad build two additional nuclear power plants to help combat an energy crisis in the south Asian nation. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad today that the deal is part of a nuclear cooperation agreement recently signed between the two countries. He said Pakistan will benefit from an extra 680 megawatts of electricity following the completion of the new power plants. Qureshi said Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the terms of the deal during a four-day visit to Beijing this week.

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