WORLD ECONOMY: The leaders of China, Japan and South Korea have pledged closer
cooperation to ease the adverse affects of the global financial
downturn on Asian economies.
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and South
Korean President Lee Myung-Bak said at a summit in southwestern Japan
that Asia is expected to play a role as the center of world economic
growth in order to reverse the downward trend of the world economy.
The three leaders called for quick action on setting up a regional fund
to avert turmoil and for an urgent capital infusion into the Asian
US - ECONOMY: The Bush administration has reversed itself and says it might use money
from a financial industry rescue fund to keep U.S. automakers in
The White House said Friday it is considering helping the auto industry
by using some of the 700 billion dollars set aside to aid the banking
industry. The Republican Bush administration had previously resisted
requests from Democratic congressional leaders to use that fund.
Officials at the U.S. Treasury say they "stand ready" to prevent the
failure of the automakers until Congress reconvenes to address the
IRAQ: The U.S. defense secretary is in Iraq, where he is expected to meet
with senior commanders in preparation for a major drawdown of U.S.
Robert Gates flew into Balad airbase today on an unannounced visit.
Last month, the Iraqi parliament approved a new security pact, which
sets out terms for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for three more years.
The deal calls for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June
30th of next year. It also gives Iraq strict oversight over some
150-thousand U.S. forces in the country.
The pact, which takes effect on January first, would have all U.S. troops out of Iraq by 2011.
GATES - MIDEAST: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned U.S. adversaries against
trying to take advantage of president-elect Barack Obama when he takes
office next month.
Gates told a gathering of Gulf state leaders in Bahrain today
that Mr. Obama will be, in his words, "ready to defend the interests of
the U.S. and its allies" from the moment that he steps into office on
The defense secretary said anyone planning to test the resolve of Mr. Obama's administration would be "sorely mistaken."
Gates also singled out Iran for criticism, repeating a frequent White
House claim that Tehran is trying to destabilize Iraq and the whole
NOKOR NUCLEAR: North Korea has threatened to slow down work on dismantling its nuclear
program if the United States and other countries suspend energy aid.
North Korean vice foreign minister Kim Kye-gwan told reporters at the
Beijing airport today that the Stalinist state would
probably adjust the speed of disablement work if the energy aid does
not come in.
The U.S. State Department said Friday that the five nations negotiating
with North Korea on ending its nuclear program are stopping fuel aid
shipments to Pyongang until it accepts a plan to verify disarmament
KASHMIR - UNREST: Reports from Indian Kashmir say a man has been shot and killed during
clashes between police and protesters, as voters cast ballots in a new
round of local elections.
Police opened fire on demonstrators today in
the village of Koil, where hundreds of separatists were protesting
against Indian rule. One protester died of gunshot wounds, while at
least two others were injured.
Police also fired tear gas and shot into the air to disperse the
Security was high throughout Kashmir today, as the region
held the fifth round of a staggered vote to choose a new state
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: The U.S. and Russian ambassadors to the United Nations are calling on
Security Council members to overcome their differences and adopt a new
resolution in support of the Middle East peace process.
The Security Council will meet today to begin
debate on the declaration. The U.S. ambassador, Zalmay Khalilzad, said
the statement would push for the so-called "two state solution," which
would see a Palestinian state created alongside of Israel.
His Russian counterpart, Vitaly Churkin, stressed the need to "avoid any kind of pause" in the peace process.
THAILAND - POL: Thousands of supporters of former Thai prime minister Thaksin
Shinawatra are assembling at a Bangkok stadium today to hear
a telephone speech he will deliver from exile.
Mr. Thaksin, who is living abroad to avoid corruption charges, is to
address a packed stadium from an undisclosed location 10 days after his
allies in government were forced out by a court ruling that disbanded
their coalition parties.
Rally organizers said Mr. Thaksin's speech will focus on perceived army
interference in national politics. The army ousted Mr. Thaksin in a
2006 bloodless coup, after he was accused of corruption and abuse of
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