PAKISTAN - TALIBAN: Taliban militants in Pakistan have started to retreat from a northwestern district they infiltrated earlier this week.
A top administrator in the region (Syed Mohammed Javed)
said the Taliban fighters are pulling out of Buner district and
returning to their stronghold in the nearby Swat Valley. A local
official says Taliban based in Buner can remain in the area as long as
they do not patrol the streets.
Pakistan deployed hundreds of paramilitary troops to the area after
Taliban militants began setting up checkpoints in the district, which
is less than 100 kilometers from Islamabad.
SRI LANKA: Two top Indian officials traveled to Sri Lanka Friday to meet with the
country's president (Mahinda Rajapaksa) and to urge a halt to the
military's offensive against Tamil Tiger rebels.
India's national security adviser (M. K. Narayanan) and foreign
secretary (Shivshankar Menon) were sent to voice India's concerns for
the civilian population trapped in the conflict.
Indian politicians have been under under pressure from their country's
ethnic Tamil population -- an important voting group in India's ongoing
NOKOR - US JOURNALISTS: North Korea says two U.S. journalists who were arrested last month near
the regime's border with China will be put on trial for unspecified
The Korean Central News Agency says Euna Lee and Laura Ling will stand
trial "on the basis of the confirmed crimes" they committed. Pyongyang
earlier said the two journalists were being investigated for illegally
entering its territory and committing "hostile acts."
Lee and Ling were doing a story on North Korean refugees in China for
U.S. media outlet Current TV when they were arrested on March 17.
NOKOR - NUCLEAR: North Korea has told visiting Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
that it has no further use for international nuclear disarmament talks.
According to a foreign ministry statement carried by North Korean state
media, Lavrov "took note" of Pyongyang's position during a meeting with
his counterpart Thursday.
After that meeting, Lavrov told reporters that he did not expect a quick breakthrough in the dispute.
The report says Lavrov also reaffirmed Russia's opposition to new U.N. sanctions against Pyongyang.
THAILAND - POLITICS: Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has lifted a state of
emergency and voiced his hope for reconciliation following violent
street protests against his government.
Mr. Abhisit told a special session of parliament Friday that the state
of emergency was lifted to show the world that Thailand has returned to
He says the move was also made to find a solution to the Thailand's ongoing political crisis and move the country forward.
Still, Mr. Abhisit says troops will remain deployed in the streets as
anti-government protesters say they plan to hold a peaceful rally in
Bangkok on Saturday.
IRAQ: Iraqi police say a pair of suicide bombings in Baghdad Friday killed at
least 60 people and wounded more than 100 others -- adding to a recent
surge of violence in the country.
Officials say the two bombers detonated their explosives at a revered
Shi'ite shrine (of Imam Mousa al-Kazim) in the Kazimiyah neighborhood.
On Thursday, two suicide bombings in Iraq killed at least 78 people, in
one of the most violent days in the country in more than a year.
The deadliest attack killed 47 people (in Muqdadiya) in Diyala
province, many of them Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims.
CHINA - JAPAN - WAR SHRINE: China has confirmed that Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso will make an
official visit to the country next week, despite anger over Mr. Aso's
offering to a controversial Tokyo war shrine.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry said Friday the Japanese leader would
arrive in Beijing next Wednesday for the start of a two-day visit.
The ministry expressed its "concern and dissatisfaction" Thursday over
Mr. Aso's offering of a flowering evergreen tree called "sakaki" to the
Yasukuni shrine earlier this week. The shrine honors more than two
million Japanese war dead, including several convicted war criminals.
INDIA - ELECTIONS: Voting in India's parliamentary elections was marred by another attack blamed on communist rebels.
Police say four policemen and an election official were killed Thursday
when a landmine blew up their jeep in the eastern state of Bihar.
Authorities have been on high alert for attacks by communist rebels,
known as Naxalites, who have waged a campaign of violence to disrupt
At least 19 people were killed in rebel violence during the first phase of the election last week.
Millions of Indians voted in 12 states across the country this week in the second phase of five-stage elections.
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