AFGHANISTAN: A report in a major U.S. newspaper outlines allegations of massive
voting fraud committed to help Afghan president Hamid Karzai win
re-election. The New York Times Monday quotes unnamed Afghan and Western
officials saying Mr. Karzai's supporters created as many as 800 fake
polling stations that produced hundreds of thousands of fraudulent
votes. The Times says the votes counted for Mr. Karzai at some
polling stations may be 10 times higher than the number of people who
actually voted. Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission says votes from nearly
500 polling stations across the country have been invalidated due to
allegations of widespread fraud. Partial election results show that Mr. Karzai has 48.6 percent of the
vote, while his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah has 31.7 percent. The
count is based on returns from about 75 percent of the country's
IRAN-NUCLEAR: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says his country will not negotiate its "right" to develop nuclear technology with world powers. Speaking at a news conference Monday, Mr. Ahmadinejad said from Iran's point of view, the nuclear issue is concluded. But he said Iran will discuss ways to cooperate on the "peaceful use" of nuclear energy. A group of six world powers made up of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain) plus Germany has been seeking a dialogue with Iran over its controversial nuclear program. The group has offered Iran incentives to halt nuclear enrichment activities, and has been considering sanctions on Iran if it does not cooperate. Iran says it will present the group its own package of proposals soon.
ISRAEL-SETTLEMENTS: Israel has approved the construction of more than 450 new housing units in the West Bank, despite U.S. and Palestinian calls for a halt to settlement activity in the occupied territory. Israeli Defense Minster Ehud Barak authorized the move Monday. It is the first authorization for new construction since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in March. There are still expectations that Mr. Netanyahu will eventually order a temporary settlement halt, in line with U.S. demands. The United States has asked Israel to freeze all settlement expansion as part of efforts to reach peace with Palestinians. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says anything less than a complete freeze on settlement activity by Israel is unacceptable.
US-ARMS SALES: A new study finds the United States was responsible for more than two-thirds of last year's global arms sales, expanding its position as the world's top weapons supplier. On its Web site Sunday, the New York Times newspaper said the report (by the Congressional Research Service) shows the U.S. signed arms deals worth nearly $38 billion in 2008 -- more than 68 percent of worldwide sales. The Times said the American sales figure is more than $12 billion higher than the year before.
KOREAS-FLASH FLOOD: South Korea filed a protest with North Korea Monday after a flash flood flowed across the border from the North, sweeping away several people. South Korean officials believe North Korea, without prior warning, released water from a dam on the Imjin River. Six South Koreans camping and fishing along the river are missing after flood water that doubled the depth of the river early Sunday swept them away. In addition to the six missing, police say they found the body of a young boy who apparently drifted down the river from the North.