AFGHANISTAN: The United States is changing the way it fights the drug trade in
Afghanistan, calling previous efforts to eradicate poppy crops "a
failure" that boosted support for Taliban insurgents. U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, told the Group of Eight foreign ministers in (Trieste,) Italy, Saturday that efforts to destroy poppy crops that fund the Taliban have wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. G8 ministers, as well as the head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, welcomed the change.
Holbrooke said Washington views the Taliban, not poppy farmers, as its enemies. He said the U.S. will now spend more money to support legal crops and agricultural development.
IRAN: Iranian state media reports that authorities have arrested eight Iranian staff members of the British embassy in Tehran. Iran's Fars news agency says the eight employees had played a "considerable role" in the country's post-election unrest. Iran has accused Western nations, particularly Britain and the United
States, of involvement in the street protests and violence.
Last week, Iran expelled two British diplomats, prompting Britain to respond in kind. Following the incident, Iran's foreign minister warned that the country may consider downgrading ties with Britain.
RUSSIA-NATO: NATO and Russia agreed Saturday to resume military ties, ending a 10-month rift caused by Russia's war with Georgia, but they failed to bridge major differences over the conflict. The agreement, which paves the way for the two sides to restore cooperation on anti-piracy operations, counter-terrorism, and the war in Afghanistan, was reached at a meeting of NATO and Russian foreign ministers in Greece. NATO's outgoing Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said that the NATO-Russia Council, set up to improve ties between the two sides, is operational again.
ALBANIA ELECTION: Albanians are voting in parliamentary elections that are seen as crucial to the country's hopes for European Union membership. The elections Sunday are expected to serve as a test of Albania's political maturity and are the first since the country joined NATO. About 3.1 million voters will elect 140 parliamentary deputies in the seventh election since the fall of communism in the 1990s. At least 3,000 monitors are observing the voting process -- 500 of them from other countries. International observers say they will watch closely to see if voting is free and fair.
GUINEA -BISSAU ELECTION: Polls opened in Guinea Bissau Sunday to allow voters to choose a
president to replace long-time leader Joao Bernardo Vieira, who was
killed in March by mutinous soldiers. Eleven candidates are running and 600,000 voters are registered to participate in the poll. The vote is expected to be primarily a race between the ruling party's
candidate, former national assembly chair Malam Bacai Sanha, and former
president Kumba Yala from the main opposition Social Renewal Party. Government security forces earlier this month killed presidential
candidate Baciro Dabo, claiming he was involved in a coup plot. Another
candidate (lawyer Peter Nfanda of the Ecological Party) later dropped out of the race because of what he called "security concerns."