ISRAEL-PALESTINIANS: U.S. President Barack Obama will try to restart Mideast peace talks this week with a joint meeting of the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
The White House says the meeting is set to take place Tuesday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Mr. Obama will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas separately before bringing them together. Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have accepted Mr. Obama's invitation. The U.S. envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, said the joint-meeting shows President Obama's deep commitment to comprehensive peace in the region. Mitchell returned to the United States on Friday after trying unsuccessfully to resolve a key obstacle to peace -- Israeli settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
US-OBAMA: U.S. President Barack Obama is appearing on a record five television news programs Sunday as he tries to deflect criticism of his policies. He will give interviews on all of the top morning news programs in the United States, except a conservative network (Fox) that is sharply critical of his administration. The president is trying to overhaul the country's health care system while managing an economic crisis and two wars. The Democratic president's health care plan has drawn fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers. Many say it is a precursor to socialism. Tens of thousands of conservative Americans rallied in Washington against the plan and other Obama policies last week.
U.S-TERROR SUSPECT: U.S. federal agents have arrested three men for making false statements in a counter-terrorism investigation. Authorities took Najibullah Zazi and his father (Mohammed) into custody late Saturday in the western state of Colorado after Zazi canceled plans to meet federal agents for a fourth day of questioning. A third man (Ahmad Wais Afzali) was arrested separately in New York. The U.S. Justice Department said in a statement that each man was charged with "knowingly and willfully making false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation "in a matter involving international and domestic terrorism." The men are set to appear in court Monday and could face eight years in prison if convicted.
US-MISSILE DEFENSE: U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is dismissing criticism of a new
missile-defense plan for Europe, rejecting claims it is a concession to
Russia. Gates defends the Obama administration's strategy in an opinion article published (Saturday) in The New York Times newspaper.
The administration is following Gates' recommendation to change plans from a ground-based missile-defense system to a sea and ground-based program.
Gates says the new plan will enable the United States to defend itself and its allies against Iranian missile attacks years earlier than the original plan.
He says those who say the administration is abandoning missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what it is doing.
Gates says the new plan will deploy sea-based interceptor missiles by 2011, and install similar technology on the ground in Southern and Central Europe four years later.
AFGHANISTAN-ELECTION: Afghanistan's approaching winter weather may join threats of violence
and allegations of election fraud as a major problem in choosing a
president. In an interview with the Reuters news agency, Afghanistan's chief
electoral officer said if a runoff election is required, it needs to
happen before the third week of October. Daoud Ali Najafi says winter snow will make a runoff later in the year impossible. Preliminary returns released Wednesday show Afghan President Hamid
Karzai with 54 percent of the vote. That is more than the 50 percent
needed to avoid a runoff.
But a U.N.-backed electoral oversight group has ordered a partial recount because of fraud allegations. And Najafi says the group should speed up its fraud investigation, or the climate of mainly-rural Afghanistan will force a long delay of any runoff.