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Polls Open For South African National Elections


SOUTH AFRICA - ELECTION: South Africans are standing in long lines to vote in a national election that is expected to confirm the dominance of the ruling African National Congress party. Witnesses at many of South Africa's nearly 20,000 polling places report a large turnout in the first few hours of voting Wednesday. Election officials say 23 million people are registered to vote. Surveys show the ANC is likely to win at least 60 percent of the vote, despite the challenge of a breakaway party, the Congress of the People, or COPE.

INDIA - MAOIST VIOLENCE: Police in eastern India say communist rebels have released hundreds of train passengers they took hostage Wednesday, a day before the next phase of the country's general elections. Media reports say about 200 rebels swarmed the train Wednesday in the eastern state of Jharkhand, and forced the driver to take it to a remote area (near the town of Hehegarha). Police say the passengers were unharmed. In separate incidents reported Wednesday, police say rebels torched at least six trucks in the state of Bihar, and killed a driver.

SRI LANKA: The Sri Lankan military says two key Tamil Tiger officials surrendered Wednesday as government forces pushed further into rebel territory. The military said a rebel spokesman, known as Daya Master, turned himself over to the government along with a top political aide. A Sri Lankan defense spokesman said the army has now cornered the rebels into an area of land no larger than 13 square kilometers in the country's northeast. That is where the government is making an aggressive push to eliminate the Tamil Tiger rebels, and to bring an end to a 26-year civil war.

KOREAS TENSIONS: North Korea has accused South Korea of moving a border marker on a heavily fortified zone that separates the two countries and threatened to retaliate if it is not put back. In a state-media report Wednesday, North Korea accused the South of moving the post dozens of meters north, calling the move a "serious military provocation." Pyongyang says it would take measures to defend itself and that South Korea would be responsible for any consequences. South Korean military officials say the accusation is groundless.

SOUTH KOREA - US - FREE TRADE: A South Korean parliamentary committee approved a free trade agreement with the United States, paving the way for the deal to be voted on by the entire legislature. The ruling Grand National Party says the bill was endorsed by the legislature's foreign affairs and trade committee Wednesday, despite protests from opposition lawmakers. The trade deal, which is the largest since the United States signed the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico in 1994, was signed two years ago.

US - CIA - OBAMA: A new report by a U.S. congressional committee details the use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists during the Bush administration, including detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan. The investigation by the Senate Armed Services Committee finds the techniques were adapted from a program used to train American troops to resist abusive enemy interrogations, and included sleep deprivation and waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning.

THAILAND POLITICS: Thailand's foreign minister has expressed confidence that the government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva can overcome the civil unrest that has paralyzed his country. Kasit Piromya told the Asia Society in New York Tuesday that the Thai government will take legal measures against the instigators of violence, but will not punish people who protested in a democratic manner. He said the government is committed to including all segments of Thai society in discussions on political reforms.

CHINA - NAVY ANNIVERSARY: China is marking the 60th anniversary of the founding of its navy with an extravaganza in the waters off the eastern port city of Qingdao. Officials announced that the country's nuclear-powered submarines will be shown for the first time during an international fleet review Thursday. Chinese Navy Commander Admiral Wu Shengli said Tuesday the celebration will show China's warships and submarines as a force of peace and harmony and not aggression.

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