AFGHANISTAN: An international conference on stabilizing Afghanistan concluded in London with a pledge by delegates to contribute more than $140 million to a new trust fund designed to reintegrate Taliban militants into Afghan society. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband announced the pledge Thursday at the end of the one-day meeting, attended by delegates from about 70 countries. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the new fund will finance the reconciliation program and provide an economic alternative to those who have none.
ISRAEL - HAMAS: The Palestinian militant group Hamas says Israel has assassinated one of its senior commanders and is promising to avenge the killing. The group says Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was killed in the United Arab Emirates city state of Dubai on January 20. In a statement released Friday, the group pledged to "retaliate for this Zionist crime at the appropriate time." Hamas did not give any details of the man's death, but said it is working with UAE authorities to investigate. Israel has not commented. Hamas says Mabhouh was a founding member of its military wing, which has been responsible for hundreds of attacks and suicide bombings against Israel.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: The U.S. Senate has approved legislation that would strengthen
sanctions aimed at pressuring Iran to halt its sensitive nuclear
The measure, passed by voice vote Thursday, would target companies that
export gasoline to Iran or help expand its oil refining capacity. Such
companies would, in part, be denied loans and other aid from U.S.
Iran, a major crude oil producer, must import 40 percent of its gasoline because of a lack of refining capacity.
The U.S. House of Representatives has passed similar legislation.
KOREAS - TENSIONS: South Korea says North Korea has fired artillery into a disputed border area in the Yellow Sea for the third straight day Friday. A spokesman for the South's Joint Chiefs of Staff says the regime fired about 20 shells into North Korean waters near South Korea's Yeonpyeong island. Pyongyang says the shelling is part of an annual military drill. South Korea fired warning shots after the first round Wednesday, but has not responded since. In an interview with BBC television, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak says it is "not desirable for North Korea to make this kind of threat."
INDONESIA - PROTESTS: Thousands of Indonesians demonstrated in major cities across the nation
Thursday to express dissatisfaction with President Susilo Bambang
Yudhoyono's first 100 days of his second term.
At least 7,000 people participated in the biggest rally in the capital, Jakarta.
Minor clashes between police and protesters have been reported.
President Yudhoyono won re-election last July with more than 60 percent
of the vote on the promise of eradicating corruption. But since then,
he lost some popular support due to a series of corruption scandals in
US - ASIA PACIFIC - TRADE: U.S. Trade Representative Demetrios Marantis has warned that the United
States could get excluded from Asia-Pacific markets if it does not act
while other nations negotiate trade deals in the region.
Marantis said Thursday huge southeast Asian markets in the region are a key destination for U.S. manufactured goods.
He said that in 2008, U.S. exports to the region totaled $747 billion, up more than eight percent from the year before.
But he said the U.S. could lose a significant share of these markets as
a result of a new East Asia Free Trade Area that excludes the United
States, and similar agreements about to be implemented.
OBAMA - ECONOMY: U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday unveils details of a $33 billion jobs-creation proposal, as he continues to follow up on ideas outlined in his State of the Union address. The White House says Mr. Obama will go to the city of Baltimore (in the eastern United States) to introduce a proposed tax credit of $5,000 for every new employee a business hires. The credit is to be capped at $500,000 per firm to ensure that the majority of the benefit goes to small businesses. The proposal is the latest of Mr. Obama's plans to stimulate the job market.
BRITAIN - IRAQ - BLAIR: Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made his long-awaited
appearance Friday before a British government inquiry to defend his
decision to go to war in Iraq.
Mr. Blair said the regime of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was
"appalling" and that "we couldn't risk" such a regime developing
weapons of mass destruction. The former prime minister added that the
U.S. and British assessment of the risk posed by Saddam changed
drastically after the September 11th attacks on the U.S..(News Updates)
VIETNAM - DISSIDENT: Vietnamese court has sentenced a dissident writer to four years in
prison on charges of spreading propaganda against the state.
Pham Thanh Nghien was sentenced Friday in the northern port city of
Haiphong after a trial that lasted only half a day. The proceedings
were closed to foreign journalists and diplomats.
The judge also sentenced her to three years probation.
The 32-year-old Nghien was arrested in late 2008 for staging a protest
against Vietnam's dealings with China over a disputed sea territory,
and posting pictures of it on the Internet. (News Updates)
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