GAZA - ISRAEL: Israel pounded the Gaza Strip with new strikes today, as
Israeli leaders prepared to decide whether to end their three-week
offensive against Palestinian group Hamas.
In the northern town of Beit Lahiya, United Nations officials say two
children were killed when Israeli shelling hit a U.N.-run school where
hundreds of civilians had taken refuge. At least 14 other people were
A spokesman for the U.N. relief agency in Gaza
condemned the attack and called for an investigation.
Israel has shelled several U.N. facilities since it began its
AFGHANISTAN: Officials in Afghanistan say a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul has killed two Afghan civilians and wounded more than 20 other people, including six U.S. troops. The explosion went off today near a U.S. military base and the German Embassy on a heavily-guarded road lined with concrete blast barriers. German Foreign Ministry officials said German staff members were also wounded in the blast. Both the German building and the American base sustained damage. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack. Later in the day, another suicide bombing killed a civilian in eastern Afghanistan.
RUSSIA - EUROPE GAS: Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has left Kyiv for Moscow for
talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to try to solve the
two-week gas dispute that has disrupted supplies to Europe.
In a parallel development, the European Union has offered to send two
representatives to a separate gas "summit" in Moscow, but
only if Ukraine also takes part.
Ukrainian leaders say they do not oppose a summit but insist it be held
on neutral ground in Brussels or Prague. No European heads of state
have publicly announced plans to travel to Moscow for the meeting.
NOKOR NUCLEAR: North Korea's foreign ministry said today that the Stalinist state would not give up its nuclear capability as long as it feels threatened by the United States. A ministry spokesman said it would be wrong for the United States to think Pyongyang would give up nuclear weapons in exchange for normalizing diplomatic ties. On Tuesday, North Korean officials called for denuclearization of both Koreas, claiming that the United States military in the South has nuclear weapons. Yonhap news agency quoted South Korean foreign ministry officials as calling the demand "distorted," and saying there are no U.S. nuclear arms in South Korea.
US INAUGURATION TRAIN: U.S. President-elect Barack Obama takes a historic railroad journey
overlaid with symbolism today when he retraces President
Abraham Lincoln's trip from Philadelphia to Washington for his
inauguration in 1861.
Huge crowds are expected to greet the train carrying the
president-elect as it makes its way from the nation's Pennsylvania
birthplace to the nation's capital. It will stop along the way at
Wilmington, Delaware - home of Vice-president elect Joe Biden - and
Presidential Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Natalie Wyeth said the
association with President Lincoln is particularly meaningful to Mr.
Obama, because not only were both men from Illinois, but Abraham
Lincoln signed the order ending slavery in the U.S.
US - IRAN - STONING: The United States has condemned the recent stoning death of two men in Iran for adultery.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack issued a statement
Friday demanding an end to what he called such "cruel and unusual"
punishment. He said the practice does not meet the International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran has ratified.
McCormack called on Iran to not only permanently abolish the practice
of stoning, but to offer all defendants fair and transparent trials.
International rights group Amnesty International urged Iran to declare
an immediate moratorium on executions by stoning, including in the
cases of 10 people currently at risk of such punishment.
THAILAND REFUGEES: Thai officials say they are investigating reports that the Thai navy forced hundreds of refugees out to sea last month, where many of them may have drowned. The Thai navy denies the charges. A foreign ministry statement said today Thai officials were verifying all the facts and surrounding circumstances of the reports. Thai military officials said Friday that they did not force refugees and migrants from Burma and Bangladesh out to sea, rather than deporting them. Survivors who spoke to journalists and human rights groups said they were detained by the Thai navy on a remote island for several days before being towed out to sea.
MALAYSIA - POL: Voters in northeast Malaysia go to the polls today to decide
a closely-fought parliamentary race that is being seen as a key test
for the country's ruling coalition.
Opinion polls suggest today's by-election in Kuala Terengganu will be a
tight race between the ruling coalition's candidate and a conservative
Islamic party (-- the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party) rival. A third,
independent candidate lags behind in popularity.
A recent survey (by the Merdeka Center) found that most
ethnic Chinese voters -- about 11-percent of the electorate -- favor
the opposition candidate.
Listen to our World News for details.