IRAQ - BRITAIN: British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the British mission in Iraq
will end no later than May 31, 2009.
Mr. Brown and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki made a joint
statement in Baghdad today after a previously unannounced
meeting between the two leaders.
Mr. Brown and Mr. Maliki say British forces will have "completed their
tasks" in Iraq during the first part of 2009.
The leaders said the partnership between their two countries will
continue to "take on new dimensions" after British forces leave Iraq
Last week, Britain said it would withdraw the majority of its 4,100
troops from Iraq by July.
SOMALIA - PIRACY: Chinese state-run media are reporting that China is "all set" to send a
naval fleet to fight pirates operating off the coast of Somalia.
The official "China Today" newspaper said Wednesday that the government
has vowed to send a "significant peacekeeping operation" to Somalia.
The report did not give any details about the size or the timing of the
Piracy is a growing problem in the Gulf of Aden. Reports on Wednesday
said pirates have seized as many as four ships, including one Chinese
vessel, over the past 24 hours.
Chinese media say pirates were already holding at least one other Chinese ship, thought to have 17 sailors aboard.
WORLD ECONOMY: Ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries are
expected to cut oil production in an effort to prop up falling oil
The officials are meeting in Algeria today and
are expected to announce a reduction in daily output of at least two
million barrels a day. Oil prices rose slightly overnight after falling
to less than 44 dollars a barrel on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Asian stock markets are higher today after
the U.S. central bank cut its key interest rate by three-quarters of
one percent, in an effort to pull the world's largest economy out of a
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: The top U.S. representative in talks with North Korea has defended the
achievements of the Bush administration's negotiations, saying they
succeeded in halting Pyongyang's plutonium production.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill said Tuesday that
North Korea has not produced a single gram of plutonium since an
international disarmament deal was signed in September 2005. Hill said
Pyongyang otherwise would have produced a large quantity of plutonium,
which it used to build a nuclear bomb, which was tested in 2006.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thailand's new prime minister is pledging to revive the nation's
struggling economy, which has declined due to months of political
Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters today in Bangkok he will
appoint "competent people" who will put Thailand's economy back on
track. Thailand's constitutional monarch, King King Bhumibol Adulyadej,
expected to formally approve Mr. Abhisit's appointment later today.
The British-educated Abhisit is Thailand's third prime minister this
year, and the first not aligned with former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra, who was ousted from office in 2006 by a bloodless military
ASEAN: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed the
Association of Southeast Asian Nations' new charter.
A spokesperson for Mr. Ban told VOA Tuesday that new charter will help strengthen regional integration and
give the association a greater global role.
ASEAN members signed a charter on Monday that makes the 10-nation
regional bloc a legal entity for the first time in its four decade
The new charter includes commitments to the principles of democracy,
the rule of law and good governance. It calls for respect for human
rights and mandates the establishment of a human rights body.
MEKONG - BODIVERSITY: An international environmental group says urgent action is needed to
preserve one of the world's most diverse natural habitats -- the
The World Wildlife Fund says in a new report that scientists working in
the region over the past decade have identified one-thousand-68 plant
and animal species that were previously un-catalogued or believed to be
Those species include striped rabbits, bright pink millipedes and a
spider bigger than a dinner plate are among a host of species
discovered along the five-thousand-kilometer Mekong River (that flows
through six south-east Asian countries -- China, Burma, Laos, Thailand,
Cambodia and Vietnam).
CANCER STUDIES: Two new studies on cancer show that smoking and diabetes are linked to the disease. In one study, Italian researchers report that smoking increases the risk of colon cancer, adding to the long list of cancers caused by tobacco use. The researchers reported in this week's Journal of the American Medical Association that regular smokers were 18 percent more likely to develop the disease. They say smoking also increases the risk of dying from colon cancer by about 25 percent. In another study, U.S. researchers also writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association say that cancer patients are more likely to die of the disease if they have diabetes.
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