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Death Toll Rising from South Pacific Tsunami


PACIFIC EARTHQUAKE: Authorities say the death toll will likely rise to more than 100 in a tsunami that hit South Pacific islands after a powerful undersea earthquake. The majority of the fatalities occurred in Samoa, where at least 60 people have been confirmed dead. Another 24 people are confirmed dead on American Samoa, while at least seven fatalities have been reported in nearby Tonga. The U.S. president has declared a major disaster in American Samoa and is sending federal aid to support local recovery efforts.

ASIA STORM: One of the deadliest storms in years has extended its path of destruction across Southeast Asia, blowing down villages in Cambodia, unleashing mudslides in Vietnam and submerging much of the Philippines capital. Officials say the death toll is at 298 and rising. Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has issued an urgent call for local relief efforts in response to Typhoon Ketsana, which officials say killed at least 41 people there. In Vietnam, the storm damaged nearly 170,000 homes and flattened crops across six provinces. At least 350,000 people have been displaced by the storm.

GUINEA - PROTEST: Guinea has begun a two-day period of national mourning to remember the victims of Monday's bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters. The country's military ruler, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara, announced the mourning period during a televised speech late Tuesday. Camara also banned all public gatherings. He called on religious, political and civic leaders to refrain from activities that would lead to further unrest. Human rights groups say at least 157 people died and more than 1,200 were wounded when security forces opened fire on a crowd of around 50,000 demonstrators at a stadium in the capital of Conakry.

US - NATO - AFGHANISTAN: U.S. President Barack Obama is gathering his most senior military and political advisors at the White House Wednesday to debate the future of the war in Afghanistan. The strategy session will include the head of U.S. Central Command, David Petraeus, the vice president, defense secretary, secretary of state, and Mr. Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan. War commander General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. military leader in Afghanistan, will join the discussion via video link. The Obama administration has spent weeks reviewing the war strategy to try to find a new way to resolve the nearly eight-year-old conflict.

US - IRAQ: The U.S. commander in Iraq plans to tell Congress the military is sending 4,000 more troops home from Iraq next month. Army General Ray Odierno is scheduled to testify Wednesday to the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee about the transition of security responsibilities from the U.S. military to Iraqi forces ahead of a planned U.S. combat force withdrawal next year. In a prepared remarks for Wednesday's testimony, General Odierno says the U.S. will reduce the number of troops in Iraq from 124,000 to 120,000.

IRAN: Iran's chief nuclear negotiator says he is heading into this week's international talks on his country' nuclear program with "good will." Saeed Jalili said Wednesday he considers the talks a positive "opportunity" for participating nations. Iran will discuss its atomic program with the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany in Geneva on Thursday. But Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, said Tuesday his country will not discuss anything related to its right to enrich uranium. The United States vows to raise the issue. Western nations accuse Iran of seeking to develop weapons, while Tehran says its nuclear program is for peaceful, civilian purposes.

EAST AFRICA - DROUGHT: An international aid agency warns that more than 23 million people are in need of food and water in East Africa amid one of the worst droughts to ever affect the region. Britain's Oxfam launched an appeal for $15 million of emergency relief Tuesday to help some of the hardest hit countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda. Oxfam's director in East Africa, Paul Smith Lomas, tells VOA that malnutrition is becoming a severe problem. He says in Somalia, one in six children are malnourished.

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