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Clashes in Iran on Anniversary of Islamic Revolution


IRAN: Iranian authorities clashed with opposition supporters Thursday as huge crowds rallied in Tehran to mark the 31st anniversary of the founding of the Islamic Republic. Iranian opposition Web sites say security forces fired tear gas to disperse opposition supporters gathering in central Tehran. There are reports that leading reformist politicians Mehdi Karroubi and former President Mohammad Khatami were attacked when they attended the rally. Meantime, at Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Square President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed hundreds of thousands of people amassed to celebrate the national holiday.

THAILAND - NOKOR: Authorities in Thailand say they will not prosecute the five-man crew of a cargo plane carrying heavy weapons from North Korea. A spokesman from the attorney general's office in Bangkok told reporters Thursday the crew will be deported to face prosecution in their respective countries. One Belarus national and four Kazakh nationals were arrested in December after their plane was seized during a stop in Bangkok. The plane was loaded with 35 tons of heavy weapons, including explosives and rocket-propelled grenades, all in violation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea.

CHINA - DISSIDENT: The United States and European Union have denounced a Chinese court's rejection of an appeal by a prominent Chinese dissident jailed for 11 years on charges of subversion. Liu Xiaobo's attorney said Thursday that his client's appeal was turned down after a brief hearing at a Beijing court earlier in the day. In a statement released shortly after the ruling, U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman said Washington is "disappointed" by the decision. He called on China to release Liu immediately and respect the rights of all citizens to express their views.

BURMA - US - RIGHTS: Two senior U.S. lawmakers have called for the release of an American citizen sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor in his native Burma. In a statement Wednesday, Representative Howard Berman (, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, ) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer urged the Burmese regime to release rights activist Kyaw Zaw Lwin, also known as Nyi Nyi Aung. A U.S. State Department spokesman (, P.J. Crowley, ) also called for the release of Kyaw Zaw Lwin, calling his conviction "unjustified."

INDONESIA - CRIME: The former head of Indonesia's anti-corruption commission has been convicted in the murder of a businessman. A district court judge in Jakarta sentenced Antasari Azhar to 18 years in prison Thursday for his role in the killing of Nasrudin Zulkarnaen, the director of a state-run pharmaceutical firm, last March. Azhar was accused of ordering Zulkarnaen's murder to keep him from revealing an improper relationship between Azhar and the victim's wife. The defendant denied the charges, claiming he was the target of a plot to remove him from his post as head of the anti-corruption commission, better known as the KPK.

SAF - MANDELA ANNIVERSARY: South Africans are gathering Thursday at the prison where anti-apartheid leader and Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela was held for 27 years to observe the 20th anniversary of his release. The main commemorative event re-enacts Mr. Mandela's walkout from Victor Verster Prison on Robben Island, off Cape Town, on February 11, 1990. The high-security prison is being converted into a memorial site. Mr. Manela's political party, the African National Congress, has also organized marches, speeches, exhibits and other events throughout the country.

US SECURITY - BIDEN: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden says the security situation in Pakistan worries him more than that of Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. In an interview with (U.S. news network) CNN Wednesday, Biden said Pakistan "has nuclear weapons that are able to be deployed" and "a real significant minority of radicalized population." He added that Pakistan "is not a completely functional democracy". Pakistan is key to the U.S. effort in neighboring Afghanistan, and Washington has supported Pakistan's offensive against militants in volatile border regions.

US - WEATHER: The northeastern United States is struggling to recover from a second major snowstorm in less than a week as a blizzard pulls away from the Atlantic coast. The storm created treacherous conditions from Washington to New York City, paralyzing services throughout the region and forcing snow plows off the roads in some areas. U.S. government offices are closed again Thursday for a fourth straight day. The costs in lost productivity are about $100 million per day. But the Senate is set to meet Thursday, if lawmakers and staffers are able to reach the Capitol building.

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