US - AFGHANISTAN: The office of Afghan President Hamid Karzai says he and U.S. President
Barack Obama spoke late Tuesday for the first time since the U.S.
president took office four weeks ago.
The telephone conversation occurred the same day that Mr. Obama
announced plans to send 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai's office released a statement saying the two leaders
discussed bilateral relations, a review of the war on terrorism policy,
Afghanistan's upcoming presidential elections, and other issues.
U.S. Department of Defense officials Tuesday said 12,000 combat troops
will be sent to Afghanistan in the coming months, and 5,000 support
troops will follow.
US - ECON: U.S. President Barack Obama is set to announce his plan to help people
who risk losing their homes because they have defaulted on their
Mr. Obama will unveil this part of the recovery effort Wednesday in
(the southwestern U.S. state of) Arizona, which has been hit hard by
the mortgage crisis.
Few details have emerged about the roughly $50 billion plan to stem
The unveiling comes one day after the president signed a $787 billion
economic stimulus bill into law. Still, stock markets plunged Tuesday
because of fears the package might not be enough.
Wall Street markets closed near the low points set last November.
CLINTON - ASIA: U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Indonesia on the second stop of her tour of Asia.
Clinton's plane touched down early Wednesday in the capital Jakarta,
where she is scheduled to meet with her Indonesian counterpart, Hassan
Clinton will also visit the headquarters of the 10-nation Association
of Southeast Asian Nations, where she is expected to urge the
cooperative to work for improved human rights in Burma.
Her visit to the world's most populous Muslim nation is part of
President Barack Obama's goal to improve U.S. ties with the Muslim
world, which have been strained over the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of
NOKOR - MISSILE: South Korea's foreign minister says the North will face U.N. sanctions if it conducts a long-range missile test. Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan told a forum of diplomats and journalists in Seoul Wednesday a test will inevitably entail sanctions because it would be a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution. North Korea's official news agency announced Monday the country was preparing to launch the Taepodong-2 rocket, as part of a space program rather than a military test. The agency said North Korea has a right to "space development." But Yu said that Pyongyang's development of long-range missiles is an act of grave provocation that poses serious threat to international security.
CAMBODIA - KHMER ROUGE: Prosecutors and defense attorneys in Cambodia argued over evidence and
potential witnesses as initial hearings in the trial of the man who
once ran the Khmer Rouge's notorious prison concluded Wednesday.
Prosecutors are seeking to introduce as evidence a short film shot by
Vietnamese soldiers at the S-21 detention center in Phnom Penh, shortly
after they drove the Khmer Rouge from power in 1979. The film depicts
the horrors at the prison, including corpses chained to iron bedframes.
The attorney for Kaing Guek Eav (Kar Savuth) says the film
is politically motivated "to disguise the truth".
PAKISTAN: A radical Islamic cleric led a march through northwestern Pakistan's Swat valley Wednesday aimed at convincing Taliban fighters to lay down their arms. The demonstration comes two days after the Taliban sympathizer and Pakistani officials in North West Frontier Province signed a peace deal that restores Islamic law (Sharia) to the Malakand region. A NATO spokesman said Tuesday he does not doubt the good faith of the Pakistani government, but said he is concerned by a situation in which extremists would have a safe haven. And the U.S. government says it is awaiting further details from the Pakistani government on the situation.
SYRIA - US: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad says he expects U.S. President Barack
Obama to send an ambassador to Damascus soon to make good on a dialogue
offer to countries previously shunned by Washington.
Mr. Assad said in an interview with Britain's "Guardian" newspaper he hopes for a new relationship with the United
States now that the administration of former President George W. Bush
The Syrian president said he hopes Washington will act as the "main
arbiter" in the Middle East peace process. He said "there is no
substitute for the United States."
ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Israel's security cabinet has opened debate Wednesday on a possible
deal with the Palestinian militant group Hamas that could involve
trading the release of many Palestinian prisoners for the return of a
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated his position Tuesday that
the soldier, Gilad Shalit, must be released as part of any long-term
peace deal with Hamas.
Gaza militants captured Shalit more than two years ago.
Syrian-based Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal says, however, that the
soldier's release should be negotiated separately from a peace deal
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