CHRISTMAS: Pope Benedict has used his Christmas homily at the Vatican to call for peace in the Middle East.
Speaking to thousands of people at a Midnight Mass in Rome's Saint
Peter's Basilica, the pope called for an end to hatred and violence in
the Middle East.
The Catholic leader in the Holy Land, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal, also
prayed for peace during a late-night service in Bethlehem, the
traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ.
He said war does not produce peace, prisons do not guarantee stability and the highest of walls do not assure security.
Many of the Christian faithful who gathered to hear Twal speak had
passed through a concrete wall that separates Bethlehem from Jerusalem.
GUINEA POL - ARMY: The leader of a military coup in Guinea has given the members of the government 24 hours to surrender.
Renegade Army Captain Moussa Dadis Camara said in a radio broadcast today that
if all army officers and government officials do not turn themselves in
to the Alpha Yaya Diallo barracks in 24 hours, a nation-wide search
would be conducted.
Camara was relatively unknown to Guineans until Tuesday, when he and
other members of the military announced they had taken over the
government shortly after the death of dictator Lasana Conte.
Camara has declared himself president, but says he does not plan to run in elections he promised for 2010.
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel's foreign minister has briefed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
on the upsurge in violence along the Israel-Gaza border.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met Mr. Mubarak in Cairo today,
a day after Hamas militants pounded southern Israel with at least 60
Speaking separately at a rally in Cairo, Livni vowed to stop the Hamas
attacks, saying "enough is enough."
Egypt helped mediate a six-month-long truce between Hamas and Israel
that expired last week. Security has deteriorated rapidly since then.
Israeli defense officials say the military is preparing an operation
against Hamas targets in Gaza.
ASIA - ECONOMY: China says it will allow its currency to be used in limited
international transactions, the first step towards making it an
The government announced today that it will permit the yuan
to be used in settlements between two major industrial areas (the Pearl
and Yangtze river deltas) and the territories of Hong Kong and Macau.
The yuan will also be used in deals between the southern Chinese
provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan, and members of the Association of
Southeastern Nations (ASEAN).
The statement did not reveal when the initiative would begin, or how
long it would last.
THAILAND - ASEAN: Thailand says it plans to host a delayed summit of the Association of
Southeast Asian Nations in Bangkok from February 13th to the 15th.
Thai officials said Wednesday that they have not
yet finalized a venue in Bangkok for the 10-nation summit. ASEAN
members include Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the
Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ASEAN summit was originally due to be held earlier this month in
northern Thailand. But it was postponed after Thai opposition activists
occupied Bangkok's airports last month in a protest that led to the
toppling of Thailand's government.
PHILIPPINES - HOSTAGE: Authorities in the southern Philippines say a teenager abducted more
than two months ago by Muslim rebels has been freed by his captors.
Joed Pilangga was released unharmed late Wednesday in the town of
Al-Barka, located on the island of Basilan. The 17-year-old nursing
student was abducted on October 17th in the city of Zamboanga and taken
Authorities say Pilangga was freed after negotiations between the
rebels and provincial Vice-Governor Al-Rahsheed Sakalahul. His family
also paid a ransom, but amount was not disclosed.
UN - BURMA: The United Nations General Assembly has issued a resolution condemning
ongoing human rights violations in military-ruled Burma.
The resolution, which was released on Wednesday called on the Burmese government to stop carrying out
politically motivated arrests.
It also urged Burma's military leaders to free all detainees and
political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi - the prominent
opposition leader and head of the National League for Democracy.
The General Assembly vote was approved by a vote of 80 to 25 with 45
countries abstaining from voting.
INDIA - BURMA: Indian authorities say police have arrested 31 Burmese nationals who
entered the country from Bangladesh without proper travel documents.
Railway police say four women and three children were among the group arrested at the Calcutta train station Wednesday.
Police also detained an Indian national suspected of being an agent for the group.
Authorities say the Burmese nationals were planning to board a train to Jammu in Indian-controlled Kashmir in search of work.
The police say they are investigating whether the group has any links to terrorists, but officials downplayed the possibility.
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