PAKISTAN: Pakistani officials say the military has begun a long-awaited ground offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan.
The army says some 28,000 soldiers are in place (Saturday) to
root out an estimated 10,000 hardcore Taliban in South Waziristan's
vast mountainous region, an insurgent stronghold near the Afghan border.
An official says fighter jets and helicopter gunships were in action as ground forces moved into the region.
Military authorities say the army has limited time to pursue the ground attack with winter snows just weeks away.
Hours ahead of the planned offensive, Pakistani authorities imposed a curfew in the region.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghans are waiting for the release of a report by a U.N.-backed panel, which could lead to a runoff presidential vote.The Washington Post newspaper reports that the Electoral Complaints Commission has reduced President Hamid Karzai's portion of the vote to 47 percent - less than the majority he needs to win outright. Preliminary election results released last month gave Mr. Karzai 54 percent of the vote. His main challenger, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, had 28 percent. A U.N. spokesman told VOA Friday the investigative panel's final assessment of the disputed August 20th vote will be delivered soon.
INDIA FIRE: Indian officials say at least 32 people have been killed by a blaze in a southern India firecracker warehouse. Police say two people have been arrested, including the owner of the warehouse. Ten other people were reported injured in the fire late Friday on the eve of the Diwali holiday, also known as the festival of lights. The deadly fire ignited in a warehouse in the village of Pallipat, 90 kilometers from the port city of Chennai. Among the victims were people buying firecrackers for the holiday. Diwali celebrations are spread over several days and involve wearing new clothes, sharing sweets and snacks, as well as lighting many lamps, candles and firecrackers.
US - IRAQ: The U.S. military has canceled plans to send a 3,500-member Army
brigade to Iraq in January, citing improving security in the country.
The U.S. Department of Defense said Friday it will not send the
brigade, which was to replace an existing unit that is pulling out of
Iraq in the beginning of next year.
Defense officials say the decision was based on a thorough assessment
of the security environment in Iraq and the continued improvement in
the ability of Iraqi security forces to protect Iraqis.
Officials say the brigade will return to the Army's pool of available
HONDURAS: Deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya says talks on ending the
stand-off stemming from his ouster have broken down.
Speaking from the Brazilian Embassy in the capital, Tegucigalpa, where
he has taken refuge, Mr. Zelaya told reporters the talks are suspended
until the other side presents what he called a "reasonable" stance.
A member of Mr. Zelaya's negotiating team (, Victor Meza,) said the
proposal offered by interim President Roberto Micheletti is "completely
That proposal calls for the Honduran Supreme Court to decide whether
Mr. Zelaya should be allowed to return to power.
NORTH KOREA - US: A Senior North Korean official has been granted a visa to visit the United States this month, at a time when the two countries are trying to resume stalled disarmament talks. The U.S. State Department approved a visa for Ri Gun, Director General of the American Affairs Bureau of the North Korean Foreign Ministry. North Korea wants to begin bilateral talks with the United States, and has issued an invitation to U.S. special envoy Stephen Bosworth to visit Pyongyang. The Obama administration has made clear it wants any talks to include South Korea, China, Russia and Japan.
THAILAND KING: The youngest daughter of Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej said Friday that
the 81-year-old monarch is recovering from his illness and his
condition is not serious.
Princess Chulabhorn told an audience at the Thai Embassy in Berlin that the king is making steady progress.
She said that during his first week in the hospital, her father was
confined to his bed with a high fever, but his temperature has come
The princess was in Germany to receive an award for her scientific work.
Worry about the king's condition caused Thailand's stock market to lose ground for a second straight day Thursday.
US - SUDAN: U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is set to unveil a new
policy for Sudan, emphasizing working with the country's government.
The new policy will use both "incentives and pressure" to push the
government in Khartoum to work for peace in the Darfur region.
The New York Times and Washington Post each reported the shift Friday after reviewing a copy of the policy.
Administration officials say the new approach is also intended to keep
Sudan from returning to serving as a safe haven for terrorists.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will formally announce the
policy Monday, after months of debate within the administration.
US - COSTUME: U.S. retailer Target is apologizing after Latino rights groups complained a Halloween costume on the company's Web site was offensive. The costume features a space alien mask, a "green card" and an orange jumpsuit with the words "illegal alien." Several groups have spoken out against the costume, calling it offensive and distasteful. A Target spokesman says the costume appeared on the Web site by mistake, and was never intended to be sold. The company says it is removing the outfit from the site, but the costume was still available early Saturday morning.
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